The Roaring Mouse

I heard something in private correspondence about one of our ACC bishops in South Africa anathematising the person occupying the post of Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. This event has been described in an article by David Virtue (reproduced below). I claim no originality to the title of this posting. Indeed the Principality of Little Fenwick defeats the United States of America in this fanciful tale from the 1950’s.

Frankly, I find this more than a little absurd, and it throws discredit on our Church. We can show our disapproval of “liberal” Christianity, but beginning to behave like Counter-Reformation popes is a little over the top! I would have preferred to see a erudite book by this bishop refuting all the errors of “liberal” Anglicanism – that would certainly have given him more credibility.

I don’t know the full facts and why Bishop Kenyon-Hoare went ahead with this particular stunt. Did he think he would garner massive support and following, or did he overestimate his own importance? I would be most embarrassed if my own Diocesan did such a thing! I thank my own Bishop for his practical sense and realism.

* * *

African Bishop Anathematizes Episcopal Presiding Bishop

By David W. Virtue
August 8, 2013

An Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) bishop from Southern Africa has anathematized the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori, saying that she has committed the one unforgiveable sin: that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Writing in The Trinitarian the official organ of the ACC, the Rt. Rev. Alan Kenyon-Hoare, Bishop Ordinary of the Missionary Diocese of Southern African, said Jefferts Schori’s statements made from the pulpit on Whitsunday whilst on a visit to Curacao in the Episcopal Diocese of Venezuela were heretical and that his pronouncement of anathema is irreversible.

He accused the Episcopal Presiding Bishop of saying that “all the writings of St. Paul are satanically inspired. I pronounce publicly that she is anathema.

“I did so on the grounds that she committed the one unforgiveable sin: that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That of course, is not my judgment, but of the Lord himself. Her statement was designed to lead her followers into heresy of the grossest kind.

“I therefore call upon all her followers to immediately quit ECUSA or be subjected to the same judgment.”

The bishop said it is not possible for Dr. Jefferts Schori to repent of such a sin, since she can no longer tell the difference between good and evil, having said in effect that Satan and the Holy Spirit are one and the same person.

He said she made the statement to bolster her silly feminist beliefs. Whilst it may be possible to debate the ordination of women, there can be no excuse for blasphemy when doing so.

“I call upon all orthodox Christian leaders to support me in my public stand against all heresy, and this one in particular. It should be noted that a pronouncement of anathema is irreversible, and this ancient ecclesiastical curse was sanctioned by the early fathers.”

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71 Responses to The Roaring Mouse

  1. Andrew says:

    Nice title! My thoughts exactly.

  2. ed pacht says:

    I haven’t yet seen Schori’s own words, and thus can’t make such a severe judgment, though I have to admit that almost anything she has said on any subject has offended my theological sensibilities and caused me to tremble. However, I have to say also that I find it a fearsome thing to declare a judgement of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in such a way as this, let alone to declare that, “I did so on the grounds that she committed the one unforgiveable sin: that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That of course, is not my judgment, but of the Lord himself.” (emphasis supplied). If he had said that it was indeed his own judgement, as it obviously is, I might have tentatively agreed, Schori is indeed dangerous and spouts a lot of dangerous nonsense, but such hubris as expressed here makes me glad I am not in Southern Africa. His claim to speak God’s judgement irreversibly actually scares me.

    • Good comment! Schori may be an out-and-out “liberal”, perhaps even an agnostic, perhaps many things, but blasphemy is a very serious accusation.

      Blasphemy designates a concept that is often confused with sacrilege. The usual accepted meaning is deliberately insulting, showing contempt or lacking reverence in respect of God, irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Sacrilege is the violation or injurious treatment of a sacred object or person. When sacrilege is verbal, it is called blasphemy. Therefore, blasphemy is verbal and sacrilege is something committed in act, related to profaning for example the Blessed Sacrament or a church.

      I find it difficult to believe that Schori would go as far as this, as would for example a Satanist or Communist revolutionaries destroying a church and killing monks and nuns. Sometimes, blasphemy is applied to swearing or using God’s name in vain.

      Perhaps Schori is guilty of heresy if she denies dogmas to which her Episcopal Church formally adheres, for example the first four Ecumenical Councils and the Creeds. All I see her doing, from my far-away position, is opposing conservative and traditionalist Anglicans opposed to women’s ordinations and the LGBT agenda. This might be bad, unjust, many things – but is this blasphemy, deliberately offending God and knowingly profaning the sacred?

      What we need is not anathemas and condemnations, but research and writing, pastoral work, catechesis and preaching at a popular level. Flies are caught, not with barrelfuls of vinegar but with spoonfuls of honey. We win souls by love and gentleness, as did St Francis of Sales when the Calvinists were taking over his diocese in the Savoy and present-day Switzerland!

      Another thing which I found in the more conservative circles of the Roman Catholic Church was the notion of clerics thinking we can replace God, and that God would automatically ratify everything we say and do. That is clericalism at its worst. We have lessons of humility to learn. I saw plenty of cantankerous shenanigans with Bishop Leslie Hamlett in England who caused a lot of trouble in the ACC in the 1990’s, from which recovery is only beginning to be solidly acquired.

      A little humility will go a long way, then we can beat heresy and bad doctrine through kindness, charity, erudition and pastoral zeal.

  3. AbpLloydOSJV says:

    “Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness,” said Jefferts Schori. “Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it. It gets him thrown in prison. That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!”

    The passage that Jefferts Schori was preaching can be found in the Book of Acts, chapter 16. The chapter provides an account of some of the mission Paul of Tarsus did in the early church.
    In the incident described in Acts 16:16-18, Paul cures a slave girl of a demon that had given the girl the ability to fortune-tell and made money for her masters.

    Acts 16: 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

    I assume that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s argument for the charge of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (“the” unforgivable sin; Mark 3:28-29) is that Schori is denying Paul’s casting out of the demon was an act of the Holy Spirit?

    Though I confess, I don’t actually understand her reasoning at all about this passage – except perhaps to suggest that the slave girl’s affirmations were not demonic prophesy but acclamations of the Holy Spirit about Paul and Silas? Schori seems to confuse a demonic confession with faith freely given! Does Schori know that Jesus also confronted demons who correctly identified him? Of course, she neatly sidesteps the fact that the girl was being abused for her gift of prophesy (attributed to the local mythology about pythons and Apollo), which is probably a good indicator that actually the girl’s prophetic abilities had nothing to do with the Holy Spirit but were demonic divination, for why would the Holy Spirit prophesy a creature in slavery for the profit of her masters? She also stated in the same sermon, “Salvation comes not from being cleansed of our sins by the atoning sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, but through the divinization of humanity through the work of the human will.” Apparently Schori condemned those who did not share her views as “enemies of the Holy Spirit.” Go figure…?!

    • ed pacht says:

      Oh, is that the incident that +Kenyon-Hoare was referring to? I am familiar with that particular bit of “exegesis” and have commented on it elsewhere, but assumed he was mentioning yet another of Schori’s long series of dreadful misuse of Scripture.

      Can I safely say that she is dead wrong and wreaking harm by her words? I certainly can and will, for all the reasons given here by ++Lloyd. Can I therefore claim that she has thus committed an unforgiveable sin and therefore can never repent? God forbid that any man should ever have such authority as that! To claim that such a pronouncement came not from +Kenyon-Hoare speaking as himself, but from God, and cannot be changed, is (to my mind) an usurpation of God’s authority comparable to that of Schori herself. I’m not less disturbed by Schori’s teachings than he is, but just who is it that he thinks he is? A little humility would go a long way.

      • AbpLloydOSJV says:

        I “assume” that it is (ref “the incident”)…

        But pray tell, what is the difference between Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’’s “anathema” and St. Peter’s in Acts 5:1-11? Bearing in mind that as an “Anglo-Catholic” you would surely claim that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is in valid Apostolic Succession and thus possessed of the same Apostolic authority delineated in John 20:22, 23? Does Bishop Kenyon-Hoare not possess that authority and *is* this a misuse of that authority?

        To be brutally frank, you admit that he is not entirely without cause in his reasoning…
        “Can I safely say that she is dead wrong and wreaking harm by her words? I certainly can and will, for all the reasons given here by ++Lloyd.” IF one accepts *my* particular reasoning (which is actually only a *suggested* reasoning for the actions of an episcopal (Apostolic) brother I know not, certainly not personally?

        It’s true, I don’t know *exactly* where Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is coming from (I could ask him directly, of course). However, it seems to me, I can’t ignore and completely disregard his plea without putting into question on what (Apostolic) “authority” he asks this question…? “I call upon all orthodox Christian leaders to support me in my public stand against all heresy, and this one in particular…” Irrespective of whether I think “in the great scheme of things, in the media savvy world that we live in” anybody would give any credence to any “public” stand that I might make with him? Afterall, he either IS a bishop endowed with the authority of the Apostles in their sacramental lineage… or he is not? Either way, he asks a question that, in the light of the evidence, surely no serious “orthodox” Christian leader should totally avoid, nor at least consider? The question is whether his “charge” is logical or has weight or not,,,? Afterall he has levied a most serious charge that requires consideration… and though he appears to have acted “unilaterally” he has asked for (episcopal/Apostolic) collaboration… Is he wrong in doing so?

    • “….but through the divinization of humanity through the work of the human will”

      Without predjudice either way to the Anathema, this statement is just astounding. It could have come from Alistair Crowley – or a certain serpent.

      • Stephen K says:

        On the contrary, Fathery Gregory, I find this statement unremarkable. If we accept a notion of “fall”, or “fall from grace” – which is quite orthodox – then salvation is precisely the raising to grace, or “the divinisation of humanity”. And, moreover, however we reconcile the conflicting claims of free will and divine power (Pelagius/Augustine) ultimately human will plays a central part and the very purpose of religion and churches is to corral and direct and strengthen human will. The comparison with Alistair Crowley or the Devil is an unworthy one.

  4. AbpLloydOSJV says:

    [Apologies – that may read deliberately affrontary – it is not meant so. But a valid questioning nonetheless?]

    • ed pacht says:

      Respectfully, most reverend sir, I think you are making assumptions that not all would make as to episcopal authority. You wrote this:

      “But pray tell, what is the difference between Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’’s “anathema” and St. Peter’s in Acts 5:1-11? Bearing in mind that as an “Anglo-Catholic” you would surely claim that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is in valid Apostolic Succession and thus possessed of the same Apostolic authority delineated in John 20:22, 23? Does Bishop Kenyon-Hoare not possess that authority and *is* this a misuse of that authority? “

      a/ Does every bishop have the degree of inspiration, supernatural knowledge. that St. Peter evidences in this case? Does the judgment of every bishop come up to the standard where it can be recorded in Scripture? Specifically, can this bishop judge Schori’s heart and intent as Peter judged Ananias’? Is there confirming evidence as there was in this case (with Ananias’ abrupt death)?

      b/ Though the bishops of today have inherited the office of the apostles, does the evidence show that they have possessed the apostolic reliability? Or do we see evidences through history of bishops declaring anathema unjustly?

      c/ Does any one bishop have authority to pronounce anathema in this way? Jesus’ words reported in John do use the plural pronoun (‘ye’) rather than the singular (‘thou’). This bishop, speaking (at least thus far) alone claims that it is not his decision, but God’s. Does the power of the keys go that far? Does the rash statement of any bishop necessarily bind on earth or in heaven?

      A belief in apostolic succession (such as I do firmly hold) does not force me to grant legitimacy to such a pronouncement as this, and much as I object to Mrs. Schori’s false teachings, I cannot support any declaration such as this that claims her to be beyond repentance and forgiveness.

      • AbpLloydOSJV says:

        Are you suggesting that

        a) the contemporary Apostles, singly, do not possess the same authority as the first generation [re the promise of the Holy Ghost]?
        b) that the Oecumenical Councils exercising the “infallibility of the magisterium” of successive “Apostles” collegially, express authoritatively the same authority (as the first Council of Jerusalem); together with generally regarded as “authoritative” assertions of recognised “Doctors of the Church”?
        c) Was not Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s invitation an appeal for collegial affirmation?

      • Stephen K says:

        Dear Archbishop Lloyd, ed pacht can speak for himself, but I am of the view that authority is only what people assent to in any age. The apostles were sometimes at loggerheads (e.g. Paul vs Peter, Paul vs Barnabas, Paul vs James) and so they were not infallible. Secondly, if Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is an apostolic successor, so is Bishop Schori… the extent both are are accepted as such. The same goes for Councils. They are a guide to the consensus and tradition of Christian teaching, within the limits of acceptance, but are never final. Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s plea for collegial affirmation is understandable because even he probably realises he cannot make such grave statements by himself. They may not even have force were 1000 bishops to support him; they have none if all or most disagree.

  5. Stephen K says:

    I think there are two issues here. Firstly, to the modern person, anathematising seems a silly, futile, impotent and arrogant gesture. It also seems to offend a modern sensibility about the relationship between God and humans purporting to act or speak in God’s name, (to wit, that we should not dare to do so!) Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is offended by Bishop Schori’s commentary. At the root of this is his view about what people should say about the Scriptures in sermons etc. His view is that only the traditional attitude and exegesis is permissible. To criticise St Paul is to criticise the Divine Author of Acts and the Pauline Letters. Only certain traditional exegesis that supports the moral inerrancy of the Scriptures and its inspired amanuenses and St Paul in particular is to be contemplated.

    The fact that this is a view about the Scriptures and the Christian faith and truth no longer shared by many other thinking self-identifying Christians does not, of course, make it an impermissible view or one about whose rightness or wrongness we should presume to confidently assert even if we do so. I see that Bishop Schori has said of this (and presumably other readings) that it is in a line of continual interpretation of the Scriptures. In essence, she is saying that authentic Christian faith today demands a new interpretation, the implication being that those who disagree with her are somehow “less” Christian. The irony is that those who, like Bishop Kenyon-Hoare, claim and insist on orthodoxy are ultimately saying something very similar.

    But the point here is, how are we to regard the Scriptures? Are they documents in formaldehyde? Or are we to allow ourselves to seek their relevance through a filter of contemporary or personal crises? Are we able to be honest enough to admit that whether we abide faithfully to a homily by St Leo or St John Chrysostom, or read the text through Robinson, or Barclay or Spong, we ultimately seek to appease or answer a very personal and subjective quest? Bishop Schori seems concerned to present the Christian challenge using a feminist rather than the traditional masculinist filter. Neither, in my view, is the ultimate self-sufficient paradigm, but both have to be taken into account and thought about.

    I have re-read Acts 16 according to the Ronald Knox translation, the Confraternity translation, the Divine Word Claretian (“Christian Community”) version, the good old King James, and the original Greek. We have Paul “annoyed”, “grieved”, “distressed”, and “diaponētheis” (“vexed” or “tired”) I cannot myself see how Bishop Schori can read into Paul’s state of mind that he was envious, jealous, or misogynistic. It seems a psychoanalytical stretch. It seems, to me at least that the passage relates an example where, though it takes him some days to realise what the problem is, Paul responds finally and does the right thing by the slave girl. A healing story no less. We can read Acts as a serial adventure or as ultimately an exhortatory history designed to show that Christianity is about healing. Or something else. We should not feel alarmed unless someone uses their reading to justify blowing up their opponents.

  6. AbpLloydOSJV says:

    “Are we able to be honest enough to admit that whether we abide faithfully to a homily by St Leo or St John Chrysostom, or read the text through Robinson, or Barclay or Spong, we ultimately seek to appease or answer a very personal and subjective quest?” Interesting, though “relativist” and slightly unnerving for it? I understand your point though. Doesn’t really answer the predicament though?

    • Stephen K says:

      Dear Archbishop Lloyd, I know it sounds “relativist”. But I don’t take that as a criticism. I think there is an important sense in which truth and faith is both objective and subjective. It is objective in the way we understand what truth is, that is something that holds independently of ourselves, but is subjective in that the only way we can ever perceive it is as something only we can perceive it in that way. I think “relativism” has become one of those convenient “enemy-labels” that is used without much dissection. There is a sense in which Christianity is necessarily a relative truth. We shouldn’t be afraid of being relativist, because we can be this at the same time as being objectivist. What we have to avoid is “absolutism” because only God has, to speak anthropomorphically, the birds’ eye view necessary to be so.

      That is my point. Faith is not a catechism or even words of any kind. It is an understanding and impulse within each of us. Evangelisation (eu-angellos) is not the conversion of others but the free expression of the good news we ourselves feel. The Gospel asks to be embraced for its own sake and the intrinsic beauty of the liberation it promises, not because, compared to the rest, it is the “best of a bad bunch”. Jesus did not reject being a Jew. He did not reject being a subject of pagan Rome. He did not lambast pagans or non-Jews, but focused on the kingdom of the inner heart. The various Churches claim to speak with his voice. Many accept this claim as a means to fill their hearts with that thirst for love and peace. Many others do not accept this claim but seek to fill their hearts that thirst for love and peace otherwise. This is the perennial reality. The objective is something we hope for, not something we can ever prove.

      There is no predicament, except one of our own making. There is a place for Bishop Kenyon-Hoare and Bishop Schori, and for you and me.

      • AbpLloydOSJV says:

        I agree that we respond to objective Truth subjectively – of course we do. Not sure how that validates Dr Schori’s interpretation of St Paul’s actions though?

        The “predicament” I was referring to is Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s “anathema” – which is “out there” and seems to warrant a response.

      • Stephen K says:

        Clearly it will not validate, for many, her interpretation – I don’t myself see the evidence for her psychological reading of Paul in that episode – but when it all boils down, it is ultimately only a long tradition of assent that validates the acceptance of an alternative interpretation, such as Bishop Kenyon-Hoare or you or I might make or accept.

        In answer to the question about what to do with Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s anathema, I think the answer is that it is essentially a curse, and in my view it is not reasonable to think that any Christian should curse anyone, with or without purporting to exercise authority. Any such ‘authority’ will probably be resisted, scorned, ignored or rejected by many Christians, including perhaps some within the hearts of people in his own flock. It will be for many a ‘dead letter’. For those who think it is right and seemly for him to have so pronounced, and/or who think it is effective magic, like the ‘pointing of the bone’ amongst indigenous Australians, I guess they will have to ask themselves, what can they do in their speech and action, to foster the healing and reconciling and forgiving spirit towards Bishop Schori which Christianity would appear to require. There is not even anything preventing Bishop Kenyon-Hoare from himself retracting the pronouncement in a spirit of more appropriate outreach, though I guess one shouldn’t expect that that will happen anytime soon. If all else fails, perhaps everyone can rely on “tempus sanat omnia”.

    • AbpLloydOSJV says:

      I refute your assertion by appealing to the actual evidence of the case and thereby ask “how” any person might logically assent to Dr Schori’s interpretation of the evidence as credible, whether objectively or subjectively?

      Re “a curse” there’s plenty of evidence in the New Testament of both Christ and the Apostles condemning false teaching… literally everywhere… Are you suggesting that Christ was Himself unable “to condemn/judge” (i.e. questioning His claim to be “Emmanuel” i.e. the “Logos”) or that the Apostles had no such authority (despite Christ giving them such and it variously being asserted throughout the New Testament) which authority was clearly “passed on” to their nominated/elected successors (again, numerous examples in/out of Scripture)? (Frankly ignoring your comparison of Apostolic authority to a “pointing of the bone”!?)

      • ed pacht says:

        Yes, a bishop can excommunicate, and he can (and should) condemn false teaching, but does he have the authority to declare that anyone is beyond forgiveness? In making the statement that he made that she has committed the only unforgiveable sin he is doing something the apostles did not presume to do. Paul instructed the Corinthians to excommunicate an immoral member, but rejoiced when they received him back again. Peter pointed out Ananias’ evil, but (unless you are going to assert that Peter killed him) it was God himself who apparently made such a judgment and seems to have left both man and wife without opportunity to repent. Many have done worse than they did (at least to any human eyes) and have returned in repentance at last.

        Much as I respect you, ++Jerome, I do believe you are attributing a level of power to mere men (even if they be bishops) that even the Apostles did not claim. This is where the strength of my objection to Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s statement. Schori is wrong, dangerously so, on many levels, but is any one of us competent to deny her the opportunity to repent? I cannot see that her sin is “unforgivable” and pray that she return to the faith she has left behind.

      • “a bishop can excommunicate”

        Excommunication is a canonical sanction imposed by a canonical superior to a canonical inferior in the hierarchical structure of a church in which the “excommunicator” and the “excommunicatee” were formally in communion. For example, the Pope excommunicates a Roman Catholic bishop, an Orthodox metropolitan excommunicates one of his own bishops or priests. An ACC bishop can excommunicate one of his priests or the college of bishops to which he belongs can excommunicate a bishop.

        How can I be expelled from membership of the East India Club for gentlemen of the Great British Empire if I have never been a member of that institution or if I have already resigned my membership thereof or already been expelled? Similarly, if I belong to Blades Club just around the corner, wouldn’t I look ridiculous if I “expelled” a member of another club who doesn’t belong to my club?

        The ACC has no jurisdiction over the Episcopal Church, and I find no article in our Constitution or Canons expressing any such notion. The two bodies are not in communion. It would make just as much sense for me to excommunicate the Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem, the Ayatollah of Iran or the Moderator of the Scottish Free Church.

        That was my point, regardless of whether we should engage polite dialogue with Ms Schori or have her as a “guest” in an Inquisition torture chamber and burn her at the stake. That is another question. I would have had more respect for Bishop Kenyon-Hoare had he written a book or a properly researched and annotated article on Ms Schori’s exegesis and theological work, pointing out the errors, fallacies and aspects “offensive to pious ears” – than his engaging in this theatrical act of pretending to impose canonical sanctions and a punishment which would have no effect other than drawing ridicule on himself.

      • Stephen K says:

        I have to agree with the spirit of ed pacht’s distinctions here, which I translate thus: a bishop (a “shepherd”) can “excommunicate” but not “anathematise”; a bishop can warn his or her flock about a viewpoint and declare a person’s view wrong in the light of an orthodoxy. I don’t see how he or she can declare a person irredeemable or unforgiveable. It is all too humanly pompous and arrogant to my view. It smacks of the “law” that Paul subordinated to faith and hope. There, you have it: I think Bishop Kenyon-Hoare has every right or obligation to warn his flock about Bishop Schori’s view but absolutely no ‘authority’ to curse or anathematise Bishop Schori. I hope you can see the distinction. One day we will all be judged. I hope and pray I will not be anathematised.

      • AbpLloydOSJV says:

        I’m merely asking questions? I haven’t at any time asserted in this discussion that I think Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s “anathema” is justified and I’d rather wish folk would stop trying to suggest that I have! I appreciate where he’s coming from though. Similarly, I have only posited questions about Apostolic authority in the episcopate, not made assertions and I certainly have never suggested, nor have I ever held, that bishops ought or should withhold absolution indefinitely – i.e. block a path to redemption, reconciliation or repentance!

      • Stephen K says:

        No worries, Archbishop Lloyd, I do appreciate you’re asking questions. I understand where Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is coming from, too. Everyone here is free to put their view about the matter, whether they agree or not. All I’m doing is offering my own answers as part of the exchange. My intentions are quite irenic.

      • ed pacht says:

        Abp. Lloyd, I am not making any assumptions about what you think, and have been trying to answer your questions as best as I can. While I do insist upon apostolic succession and do hold the episcopate in high esteem, I don’t relate well to those questions or to the assumptions they seem to reflect. Bishops are indeed successors of the apostles, but they are not apostles in the fullest sense. They do not have the foundational role held by the 11 and Paul. Their words are not incorporated into the sacred Canon as the inspired Word of God. What they bind on earth is bound in heaven ONLY if it is rightly bound, and, on more occasions than one can count such binding has been attempted and has been wrong. If one claims to speak for God, as the quoted words of Kenyon-Hoare certainly seem to say he does, one had better be absolutely certain, or one stands very close indeed to the sin of which he accuses her. You have not responded to the implied question I raised: Can any of us (even a bishop) judge another as having committed an unforgivable sin? That is certainly what I hear in his words, and it makes me tremble.

        As for Stephen K’s agreeing with me, well, that’s really not true here. He doesn’t. I have no problem asserting that Schori is quite wrong, and speaks from someplace outside authentic Christianity. She seems rarely to say anything that has not been condemned very long ago indeed. +Kenyon-Hoare would be entirely right if he had merely said that without so badly overstepping his bounds. However, he did, and I find myself almost as distressed at his words as at hers.

      • Stephen K says:

        Dear ed, I can quite understand your desire to distance yourself from many of the propositions I make, and you are quite right to make it clear that in a general sense we do not agree, but, for the sake of accuracy on this subject, I did try to indicate that we were both making a (similar) distinction between the unobjectionable nature of saying someone was wrong and the objectionable nature of saying they were irredeemable, or in your words, denied the opportunity to seek forgiveness. I think I did say that, and no more. I think we did in fact agree on that point, if no more. I appreciate at the same time that we differ in that I was only allowing Bishop Kenyon-Hoare’s autonomous right to say Bishop Schori was wrong, whereas you not only allow him that right but also (1) regard it as his obligation and (2) agree with him that Bishop Schori is wrong and a heretic. You and I agree that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare has no place or right to anathematise Bishop Schori the way he has done, but you and I disagree as to whether Bishop Schori is wrong or so wrong she is no longer a Christian.

        I hope that clears the intellectual air for you and our co-readers. You should know that I have a lot of respect for your theological approach. You always make lots of sense to me and frequently emphasise things I think should be emphasised, notwithstanding the fact that we will differ in many of our premisses or conclusions. My last wish is to embarrass you or expose you to the objections others might make to my own religious attitudes!

        We are all trying to influence the examination of religious or faith problems or explore them, and I do reflect or assimilate a number of the things that are said in counter-point to my own. I’m sure that some of the things I suggest also resonate. I think “Sunorb” – to use “Newspeak” – is a high quality forum and that is a reflection of its host and respondents such as yourself.

  7. If this bishop is a mouse, then Mrs. Schori is a mite.

    • Stephen K says:

      The title of this post makes me think of a film starring Peter Sellers and William Hartnell about a small continental duchy setting out to lose a war with the United States hoping to get post-war financial aid but inadvertently ending up with a volatile atomic bomb and holding the balance or world power!

      But allusions aside, respect is due: we might not agree with what they have both been saying but Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is a man not a mouse and Bishop Schori is a woman not a mite, and both are leaders within their own communities who have been saying things that present a challenge to thinking Christians today and some of those questions are being raised here.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Yes, both the original post way above and the little post immediately above are puns on the book (1955) and film (1959), The Mouse that Roared. Fr. Anthony specifically mentions it in his opening section.

      • Stephen K says:

        Sorry, Michael, I did not follow that link. I was trying to find a way to considerately express my disapproval of what I thought was an insult or needless discourtesy to Bishop Schori.

      • Indeed, I linked to an article about The Mouse that Roared, which inspired my title.

      • Francis "Cletus" says:

        Name calling and beard tugging are not new phenomena in church history. Councils and synods did not meet around a cup of tea with everyone being nice to one another. When the threat did not come from the inside, it came from the outside – hordes of barbarians raging at the gates. I’d rather have fistfights, exorcisms, anathema, etc over those matters than obsequious relativism. There are two aspects to this case: a canonical one, and a symbolical one. W.r.t., to the canonical case, the Bishop’s anathematising is most probably a non-case – its not as if the two churches were in communion. But then, there is a symbolical case, where the Bishop might have a leg to stand upon – he was making a statement purporting to defend divine inspiration of Holy Writ. Anyway, the decision of the Episcopal Church back in the days to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate de facto put them out of communion with the traditional branches of the Church – if one subscribes to the branch theory.

      • If the choice is between fistfights, exorcisms, anathema, etc and mushy relativism, then Christianity isn’t worth very much. It would be just as stupid as Dawkins’ atheism! Christianity has to be something higher and more transcendent than Don Camillo and Peppone (though he is my favourite priest!) and the mush of the “liberals”.

        It’s always the same in history. Russia had a reform in the 1660’s and the Patriarchate put itself out of communion with the Old Believers. The same thing happened in France over the Pius VII – Napoleon Concordat. The Roman Catholic Church had Vatican II and their liturgical reforms 300 years after the Muscovites, and the traditionalist groups started up. Now the Anglican Communion has gone in for women’s ordination and blessing same-sex unions, and their “old believers” split off.

        I suggest that when you join an “old believer”, traditionalist or continuing group, then we just have to move on and live with our decision. Either that or join the millions of unchurched. Bishops anathematising bishops of churches they are no longer in communion with is needless and conveys a bad image in an age when people find difficulty in believing in anything. I suspect that people will say that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare went for anathema and excommunication because he lacked the theological education to take on the theological issues by way of study and founded criticism. I sincerely hope that such a suspicion is untrue.

        Is it all worth the bother? The answer to that question is within each of us.

      • In my eyes, a woman can’t be a proper bishop. It’s a little surprising to read the different commentators who are referring to her as such.

        Really though, the Episcopalians in the U.S. are only a shadow of their former self and are moribund since the liberal reforms that jumped the shark. They’re a bad influence… and anathema is a good description. I would have used “apostate”, but it seems fairly close.

      • It is painfully simple. It is a question of courtesy. Rome calls Anglican bishops Bishop, Your Excellency, My Lord, etc. and doesn’t recognise them as validly ordained (they are ordained absolutely if they become Roman Catholics). That’s all.

  8. Michael Frost says:

    An issue for me is purely juridical and jurisdictional. The process by which such determinations are made and who gets to make them. One hates to import unnecessary legal terms, but the concept of “due process” seems clearly applicable here. And our focus might be better served by Acts 15 as a model for handling proper Christian teaching, dissension and debate. I would like to think that before any final determination is made, there is adequate fact finding and the accused is given the opportunity to present their side of the story with some grounds for “appeal” to the highest legitimate authority empowered to adjudicate such determinations. (Though being EO, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m very uncomfortable with one bishop thousands of miles away in his jurisdiction purporting to make a final determination about such an important matter for someone in a different jurisdiction. For the life of me I find it very hard to fathom why the one bishop wastes his time worrying about the thoughts and actions of a pretend bishop who is so steeped in erroneous thinking that it might be hard to argue she is still even a part of Christendom? Giving her this publicity works to her advantage.)

  9. Stephen K says:

    Dear co-readers, it seems to me that the Kenyon-Hoare/Schori controversy is a perfect example where we can miss the wood for the trees. I am not a member of either Bishop’s flock. I have no emotional attachment to either. Should I have? is perhaps a question. I can only express my view. I don’t profess any virtue or faithfulness. I simply try to engage in dispassionate discourse about religious and spiritual questions. There are several ways of looking at the subject matter of this particular question and I think I have identified some of them accurately enough, but others might disagree. So, what do we do? I will simply say that though I think Bishop Schori was wrong to impute, 2,000 years later, to Paul sensitivities he may very well have had no chance of understanding, given his cultural context, nevertheless, I think the meaning of Christianity, and the vitality of potential faith, suffers from refusing to accept that much of its meaning has been framed on the basis of patriarchalism or masculinist bias, and that it is perfectly understandable and permissible if people today, as a result of other intellectual and moral developments, wish to explore and adopt a feminist slant.

    Orthodox Christians are supposed to believe Jesus was the Word from eternity. Thus, to argue that the religion founded in his name must be confined to any particular cultural paradigm sounds to me every bit as much a blasphemy or sacrilege as Bishop Kenyon-Hoare sees in Bishop Schori. How dare we impute to Jesus any form or formula? We are all struggling with the enigma of our existence. We have been told certain things from childhood and we embrace some or many of them. We also discard things as they cease to generate the gospel joy in our hearts.

    The great irony is that though some of us will say that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare is right, and others will say Bishop Schori is right, all of us will face God equally.

    • Michael Frost says:

      Stephen K, Sometimes you appear to me to be somewhat relativistic. When I read your words above, my first thought was Pilate’s words, “What is truth?” Faithful confessing Christians believe there is Truth. That Truth is found in our Triune God and God’s Incarnate Word and Gospel and thru His Church. Arius and Nestorius were wrong. As were and are their followers. Same for dozens of errors named for various false leaders over the ages, going back to the age of the Apostles. They were wrong because there is Truth and they denied that Truth. So is Ms Schori today (who as a priestess is not a priest and only a pretend bishop). Sadly so is her ECUSA, which has fallen so far and so fast that it isn’t recognizeable today as a part of historic Christendom. They teach and preach error and call it truth. They lead people astray. Because they have strayed from the Truth. All we can do is pray for them and pray that God’s Holy Spirit leads them to repentence and a return from their erring ways. I wish Bishop Kenyon-Hoare had just called on his fellow confessing Christians to pray for her to mend her ways.

      • Stephen K says:

        Ah, you see, Michael, we are looking at the situation from different standpoints: you’re asserting that Truth is identical with those truths you have accepted and no other; I’m suggesting Truth is something more profound than either yours or mine or both. I am glad you call to mind Pilate’s question: I ask it all the time, and so should all of us, I think, especially when the cacophony of opposing voices drowns out the peace Jesus refers to in John 14:27.

        For you, Katherine Jefferts Schori is not a bishop – even though she was officially appointed one – because she is a woman, but for me, she is a bishop insofar as and as long as her church officially commissions her and accepts her as such. It is not for me to say she is not a bishop, any more than I can deny episcopacy to any other ordained person in charge of a community, however large or small. There’s a “Pandora’s box” in this that I’m sure no-one wants to open!

        For you, her church is no longer Christian because she holds and promotes feminism or heresy or both, but for me, there are so many self-identifying orthodox and so many heretics in their eyes, that once I dare to deny any of them at least the title of a Christian variant, then I have no reason to stop until the “truest” Christian is only the last man (or woman) standing. (I concede it wouldn’t be me.)

        For you, ECUSA leads people astray, but for me, there has been 400 years of the Roman Church and Protestant churches each accusing the other of leading people astray, 1000 years of the Roman and Eastern Churches doing the same etc. and I am not impressed.

        I turn to the Hebrew Psalms, the Roman sequences, Lutheran hymns, Eastern ikons, and various other devotional forms which enrich my spiritual focus. I go even further and think people like Dom Bede Griffiths, Raimon Panikkar, Thomas Merton have something valuable to show about how the East can make us better Christians. I don’t expect you to be inspired by the same things I am but nor am I threatened or disturbed by Bishop Schori’s take on things. I will agree or disagree with elements I am sure.

      • This argument seems to hinge on two notions. Christianity being divided into different institutional bodies, some based on a sacramental notion of the Church, and others on community life through reading the Bible and free prayer. Some of these bodies claim to be the “one true Church” and others claim that they participate in the life of the Church considered as something greater than and above their particular institution. The two notions are thus one Church divided in its humanity or one Church and a load of false communities consisting of charlatans and impostors setting out to “deceive the elect”.

        The institutions claiming to be the one true Church claim the right to judge others by their own criteria of orthodoxy and communion in the Church. Others will apply discipline in their own communities and refrain from judging what other ecclesial institutions believe and do.

        It is known nowadays that the Roman Catholic Church does not judge the sacraments of other church bodies. This is how Pope Benedict XVI could treat the Archbishop of Canterbury as a bishop and have former Anglican clergy joining the Ordinariates re-ordained. There is simply no judgement made until the cleric in question voluntarily makes the step of being received into the Roman Catholic Church. In practice (please discuss theories on this point on the Orthodox Blowout Department), the more “mainstream” Orthodox do things more or less the same way.

        Unless we are formal members of the American Episcopal Church, it does not behove us to judge or pretend to sanction Bishop Schori. In this context, I use the title not to imply recognition of women’s ordinations, but simply as a courtesy. If you write to the Vatican calling yourself a cardinal, they will address you as Your Eminence. That is simply diplomatic courtesy, and not that they recognise you as one of their Cardinals! When they called Archbishop Hepworth “Your Grace”, that didn’t mean that they recognised him as a bishop but that he was the leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion. Therefore, Katherine Jefferts Schori is Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church for the clergy and laity of the Episcopal Church. That’s not difficult in the same logic.

        Whether or not she is orthodox to usual Anglican standards is a subject about which I do not care. I am unconcerned for her or her ecclesial institution. It just isn’t my business. It is the same with the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Francis. I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, but I might raise an eyebrow on reading some things on the Internet. Now, if I have read something she has written or said from the pulpit, and found it to be of interest and worthy of criticism, then I should make a thorough study of the questions and publish my conclusions in a book or an article. I would have thought that Bishop Kenyon-Hoare could open a blog and publish his articles as many of us do.

        If we in the Anglican Catholic Church start pretending to sanction institutions and clergy outside our jurisdiction, where are the limits? Are we the “one true Church”? Since the ACC moved on from its difficulties in the late 1990’s, I do not find this attitude in most of our bishops, certainly not with our Metropolitan Archbishop Mark Haverland or with Bishop Damien Mead of my Diocese.

        Indeed, we should turn to the quality of our own spiritual lives and contributing to the apostolate and mission of our own Churches, that of showing the world that Christianity is loving, beautiful and beneficial to man. Sometimes church leaders have lovely inspiring things to say, and at other times they come up with utter bilge. They are free, as we are free to be members of dissident churches and not forced to be (paying and tithing) members of the official state church as in the past.

        Leave the “others” alone and they’ll leave us alone. It’s a free world!

      • Michael Frost says:

        Stephen K, I found one of the hymns sung today so directly relevant to our discussion. From the then PECUSA 1940 Hymnal, #519: “Once to every man and nation Come the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood, For the good or evil side….” I guess all I can assume is that regarding “truth” or “Truth” you’re consistent in your thoughts: “I’m suggesting Truth is something more profound than either yours or mine or both. I am glad you call to mind Pilate’s question: I ask it all the time, and so should all of us, I think, especially when the cacophony of opposing voices drowns out the peace Jesus refers to in John 14:27.” So whether it is Ms Schori and ECUSA today or the Gnostics, Arians, and Nestorians of then and now….

      • It would certainly be easier to take a cooler approach to Mrs. Schori if you lived in a different continent, but in the U.S. the Episcopalians have been quite an embarrassment!

        It’s also bad to consider a trade off such as “leave them alone and they’ll leave us alone” because some of the biggest promoters of destructive legeslation have been the apostate priests of that denomination. They are still destroying the culture as we speak! May the good Lord give us the strength the weather the storm!


      • Indeed, I live in Europe and have no problem with Anglican Communion clergy – or any clergy.

        However, I can understand how it is for Americans. The best attitude is – Look after the victims of war. Don’t add to the killing. I don’t see why we need to give the Anglican Communion clergy a second thought. Anyway, I disqualify myself being European (English).

  10. AbpLloydOSJV says:

    Certainly one can’t help but feel Bishop Kenyon-Hoare might have consulted his own episcopal colleagues first, if not then others, before issuing his “anathema”!.

    • ed pacht says:

      Exactly. No bishop has the right to act thus on his own.

      • With all due respect, no bishop has the right to sanction a person who is not under his jurisdiction. For precise cases within a Church, refer to that Church’s Code of Canons and general canonical jurisprudence.

      • ed pacht says:

        but a bishop indeed has the right and obligation to warn his own about those who are outside his jurisdiction. This, I think, is the primary meaning of anathema. One can’t control those outside ones authority, but one can attempt to protect ones own sheep from the wolves. I think the good bishop overstepped himself in this case.

      • This Bishop is in South Africa, and it would be interesting to see if the Canterbury Anglicans have been trying to “steal” his faithful. Why go after the leading prelate of the USA rather than the local guy in South Africa who is perhaps just as “bad”? I think the good bishop vastly overstepped himself. The news headline runs “PB Schori damned to hell by fellow bishop“! What does that say to most of our contemporaries? Answer, these church people have gone crazy and look what Christianity has done to them. What does the ACC look like? The rest of us are going to have to take time to convince people that we’re not loonies escaped from Bedlam!

        Anyway, I’m not going on with this.

      • Stephen K says:

        Father, I had to chuckle at your note of weariness and exasperation – I’m sure you never expected such vigorous response to a “mouse” of a topic! You are probably right to pack it in – I think we will have given, by now, the matter a proper beating and it’s now like something the cat dragged in!

      • Yes indeed. I hope Francis “Cletus” isn’t expecting other people to fight his wars for him while he watches it all on television!

    • Stephen K says:

      Ha!! (a guffaw this time).

  11. Francis "Cletus" says:

    There are things worth fighting for. The means may differ among themselves – but the imperative for the fight is clear. He did not come to bring some sort of “liberal” peace. Of course, prayer is the first and most excellent weapon in this fight. But our religion is based on the Incarnation – the good fight is not a disembodied one happening in view of some Buddhist nirvana. Our path to transcendence goes through immanence, and all that it implies. We are not incorporeal beings. I’m very far from agreeing with what this Bishop did in South Africa. Yet as I said, he’s got a symbolical case. And we should reflect, how in Christianity, this has come to pass: the divorce between the law and the symbol, the sacrament and the grace, which is perhaps, but expressions of the scandal of division. The Bread dispersed over the moutains, in the beautiful words of the Didache, has not been gathered again.

    Of course, one should tolerate female ordination, in precisely the proper sense of the word: forbearance, sufferance in the presence of an evil one is unable to prevent. Its entails the recognition that it happens – but nothing beyond that. And, of course, toleration should not preclude civility.

    • There are things worth fighting for.

      When I was a little boy at school, one boy would threaten another with a beating up. The adversary would then ask “Oh yeah? You and whose army?” The challenger would then have to weigh up his chances of winning the fight. In the Gospel, I can’t think of the reference, but Christ did say that we should weigh up the opposition, see if we are outnumbered and out-gunned. If that is so, then a diplomatic solution would be preferable to war. And then, when Peter drew his sword to prevent Jesus from being arrested by the cohort at Gethsemane, he said “Put your sword away. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword“.

      What kind of warfare do you have in mind? Fight for a dictator who will set up an official state church and send all dissidents to concentration camps? Set up a commando group and plant a bomb under Ms Schori’s car? You can get the electric chair or lethal injection for that!

      I already did suggest a form of combat – one that kills no one and in which the pen is mightier than the sword. Write books and articles about “liberal” Christianity and defend orthodoxy in terms that will bring people to read your books and articles. That’s something the good Bishop in South Africa could have done – and kept, yea enhanced, his credibility.

  12. Francis "Cletus" says:

    He also said : I have come to bring the sword.

    St Bernard did not deem it unbecoming to the consecrated character of his life and his saintly virtues to exhort the rulers and peoples to Europe to rescue the Holy Places and their persecuted brethren and hold the frontiers of Christendom against Islamic and barbarian forces pressing thereon. (Now what actually happened on that front is another question) Yes, there is the question of proportionality.

    “What kind of warfare do you have in mind? Fight for a dictator who will set up an official state church and send all dissidents to concentration camps? Set up a commando group and plant a bomb under Ms Schori’s car? You can get the electric chair or lethal injection for that!”

    Isn’t this the danger of the reductio ad Hitlerum? I should perhaps not belabour my point what we’re coming to, but I stand by my belief in warfare, both spiritual and material, and this last one, especially to defend and protect. I’m sure i’m not the only one who finds any cosiness with Zeitgeist disturbing.

    • Isn’t this the danger of the reductio ad Hitlerum?

      No, there have been plenty of others like Pinochet, Franco and other two-bit tin gods in South America, Africa and elsewhere.

      Take up your sword, and I’ll be interested to see how you get on. Just don’t get yourself killed!

  13. Francis "Cletus" says:

    I meant “belabour my point seeing what we’re coming to”.

  14. ed pacht says:

    Yes, “Cletus”, there is much that it is worth laying down one’s life for. There are often things requiring definite speech or action. If this is what you mean by “fight for” – well, then I’ll agree.
    BUT, the use of force (ohysical or mental) to “make” someone accept truth is never either justified or even a practical endeavor. The Gospel has to be accepted freely – or it isn’t really accepted at all

  15. Francis "Cletus" says:

    If the only response to a notion of warfare (which I said was defensive) is ridicule – well, in fact, how symptomatic – the very notion of “warfare” now only invites ridicule.

    I dont know how you all imagine a civilisation is built – without violence? i doubt it. Should we condone violence? No. Yet, it happens. Can we predict and prevent? We might try, but we’re not the only actors of history.

    Re Franco – all that I can say is that I would have rather lived under him than under the Republicans.

    • Well then, the only thing I can say is to wish you the first-hand experience of war. Join the army and get sent to Afghanistan or Irak. You will find no glory in war. My grandfather was a Captain in the Green Howards in World War II and he was captured still fighting at Dunkirk in 1940. He was finally liberated in 1945, and would never satisfy his grandson’s curiosity and fascination with war films. He carried his grief to the grave.

      Franco? It would all depend on where you were in Spanish society. If you were a Communist activist, dying by garrotte was a very nasty business!

      Is war just? Is there such a thing as a just war? Where are the dividing lines? Mankind has been plagued by these questions from the beginning of history. Some people think mankind needs a war every so often to have a good “clean-out”. No wonder people want to forget Hitler, so that they can start all over again!

      I will remind you that Hitler spread the lie among the German people that he was fighting a “defensive” war for Lebensraum and the “master race”, fighting against Communism. Yes, before knowing about the atrocities, many RC clergy believed they could use Nazism as a “tool” against Communism. How many wars are truly defensive, even that of my grandfather who fought like an Englishman? Perhaps there are moments of heroism and altruism, but war itself is madness and pure evil. In war, the enemy is war itself.

      I have not experienced war, but a I am a pacifist and an anarchist at heart. We just have to get on on life, caring for other people, as best as we can – knowing that we will all be measured up for a wooden suit. Isn’t that the bottom line?

      Look after your own soul before worrying about others!

      • I’m glad that you brought up communists, Mr. Chadwick. One of the most famous proclaimed anathemas was against the Bolsheviks by the Eastern Orthodox of Russia. To keep things in perspective…

        Sane men do not love war, sir. But many good men are soldiers and will spend the better part of their lives preparing, in readiness, for its possibility. “Anarchist”, indeed! Haha! At least you’re honest!



  16. ed pacht says:

    Cletus, I’m not qualified to judge another’s soul and I try hard (often unsuccessfully) to avoid doing so, but I can and do ask questions that a Christian really must deal with in his own soul. It is true that Jesus did not outright condemn war, and it is also true that St. Paul speaks clearly about the power of the sword possessed by Caesar. However, Jesus did say troublesome things like “Love your enemies”, and “return good for evil”

    Can you truly love someone while plotting the most efficient way to kill him? Can you look down a rifle barrel or a bomb sight with genuine love? Can you accept the dehumanizing stereotypes that a nation makes against those with whom it wars and still love? All I can say to that is that my own mind is not nearly agile enough to do so. I can’t speak for that of anyone else.

    “I dont know how you all imagine a civilisation is built – without violence? i doubt it. “

    Well, if that be so, how much of that “civilisation” is truly compatible with Christianity? How does that relate to Jesus’ comparison of gaining the whole world and losing ones own soul? Much of the Gospel seems minimally compatible with practicality, if that. Martyrdom is not practical. True selfless love is not practical, and is extremely costly. If I love my enemy (as He commanded) does that allow me NOT to give aid and comfort to the enemy? I don’t have good answers, but I’m not comfortable with the humanly acceptable, “patriotic” answers. I wonder how far Matthew 25 applies – “Inasmuch as ye did it (did it not) unto the least of these my brethren …”

    “Should we condone violence? No. Yet, it happens. Can we predict and prevent? We might try, but we’re not the only actors of history. “

    Can I regulate what others do? That’s, as they say, “above my pay grade.” Am I responsible for what I do? I am. Are the standards of the Gospel at variance with those of the world? Is a Christian going to be always in accord with what his society wants – even in a “good” society? I don’t think so.

    My brother, if your conscience leads you, personally, in a direction I wouldn’t take, and if you can do as you do, so far as you know, without sin, that’s between you and God. Please do not try to bully me or others into thinking or walking in your way. I can’t answer these questions in the way you apparently feel you can.

    • This is the whole theme of The Mission by Robert Bolt (there is also the beautiful film of 1986). Rodrigo Mendoza is a slave trader who murders his brother in a duel. In his remorse, he becomes a Jesuit lay brother. As the Church and Portugal enter into conflict, the Guarani missions are threatened, and Rodrigo is faced with the choice of obeying the Papal edict and leaving the natives to the jungle and the slave traders – or fight.

      Father Gabriel’s response is different. He too disobeys the Pope’s treacherous collaboration with the Portuguese, but refuses to fight. He bears the Blessed Sacrament and brings the people to prayer. They offer their lives to God as the Portuguese soldiers shoot them.

      Rodrigo dies by the sword by which he lived. Fr Gabriel also dies, a martyr’s death, a witness to love and conscience. I love this story, so close to the spirit of the Gospel.

      • Michael Frost says:

        The Guarani missions… Anyone who wants to study a nation and culture of suffering should study Paraguay! The Jesuits and their missions. An amazing absolute dictatorship by a most interesting despot, El Supremo, from about 1815-1841. Then the dictatorships of his progeny that leads to the devastating War of the Triple Alliance against Argentina, Uraguay, & Brazil (1865-1870). The post-war deprivations and chaos, civil war and political anarchy. A 2nd terrible war, The Chaco War with Bolivia, 1932-1935. Then revolution, civil war, and dictatorship. And only then…Stroesener as the 2nd El Supremo! See the Paraguayan epic novel, Son of Man, by Augusto Roa Bastos (1961 Spanish/1965 English), who also wrote an experimental novel on the first El Supremo and his world of madness. Few people have suffered for so long for so little reason and for absolutely no gain or purpose. Yet, they have survived as a nation.

  17. Francis "Cletus" says:

    Where did I bully? I’m trying to say that in the past, Christians, and not the least among them, found reasons to take up the sword…

    I must protest at the way in which my ideas and intentions have been mispresented. I’ve always valued this website as a free space of discussion. Nothing in what I have written above can be construed as bullying or trying to force my ideas on others. I just question the position of default pacifism and vilification of historical figures, as if the damnatio memoriae was not enough.

    Re Franco – the communists was a partisan in a political conflict – hardly so the nuns they raped and killed. So I maintain that I would have rather lived under Franco than under the Republicans had they won the Spanish Civil War. Schmitt’s Theory of the Partisan might be of some help here.

    • ed pacht says:

      Brother, I may have overspoken with the word “bully”, but not more than you did with the word ‘ridicule’. Yes, this site is a wonderful place of free discussion, but in expressing our ideas we need to be very careful to show high respect for those whose views we contest, even if we somehow can’t respect those views. That is a challenge. What I expressed came from a perception of a tone in your writing that certainly felt like bullying, and hurt like bullying. Yes, much of what you wrote can indeed be construed that way – whether it is there or not. If I overreacted, I certainly apologize. I see no ridicule in what you reacted to, but you apparently did. This kind of emotional baggage ends up making it very hard for disputants to hear one another. I’m very conscious that I sometimes sound that way, but I try hard to avoid it.

      What was behind my use of the word? Simply this, that in the overwhelming majority of cases where I have attempted to express pacifist views in a quiet and rational fashion, I have been shouted down, even threatened, or else treated as some kind of contagious plague bearer. Reasonable discussion on such emotional issues requires a lot of self-restraint. And yes, I have seen pacifists become as belligerent as that, and can’t abide that either.

      On this particular issue there is indeed a long and respectable tradition of Just War theorizing, and an equally long and respectable tradition of those who, for Christian reasons, simply cannot participate. We can disagree, but our mutual respect simply has to be obvious or we merely scrap with one another.

      • Francis says:

        I assure you, I don’t intend to shout people down, especially not here. I may have a forceful way of expression myself -but I suppose its part of my character. Ideas are what I’m interested in, and how do these ideas relate to my life. My problem is when ideas are put forward and are expected to be taken for granted. Personally, I am not a tenant of Just War Theory. I admit of jus ad bellum, but not jus in bello. I cannot conceive of the space of war as a space of right, of justice (which does not remove a certain imperative to engage therein – which opens a whole shelf of wormcans in moral and political theology), that is why, also, I have grave misgivings when it comes to the notion of “war crime”. My views are perhaps controversial – but I dont hold them absolutely – and that is why I am willing to engage in discussion, in the civilised cut and thrust of debate.

      • ed pacht says:

        I see a change of screen name. Are you still the came Francis “Cletus”?

        “…when ideas are put forward and are expected to be taken for granted. I’m glad of the clarification that that is something you do not intend. Several of your statements certainly sounded as if it was unworthy of me not to accept them. I’m glad to have been wrong on that. Perhaps my saying this will help you to be more conscious of how it sounds to others. I have been so reminded many times and have taken it to heart – not always successfully.

        Meanwhile, this discussion could prove to be an interesting one.

    • Stephen K says:

      Now, Francis and ed, this is leading on to an interesting subject, that of war, pacifism, violence, self-defence etc. It has several angles and I don’t claim to have fully reconciled the different considerations. Most of us would I think allow for proportionate physical self-defence that inflicts wounds on an attacker. It does seem clear to me however that if no-one ever made a first move to take something forcibly off someone else (theft) or to enforce their own will (rape or assault) there would be no need for “self-defence” in kind. I think that at the heart of Christianity and Buddhism and others is a desire that there be a peace that derives from, in the former case, a love of other, and in the latter case, a detachment from selfish desire. But, in practice, it is like two people who have each offended each other and who both want to reconcile, but are unwilling to make the first move. “If you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone”.

      You know what I am trying to say here, I’m sure. If a shark were to attack me in the water, if I could overcome the shock of it, I would certainly instinctively try to bash his snout off me; if a lout in the pub were to punch me for some obscure or imagined slight or inconvenience, my psychological instinct would be to throw one back, though I might hope that the publican and others would jump on him and save me any inordinate risk. If I saw someone being beat up by a gang, would I jump in to even the odds? Maybe, though a call on the mobile to the cops or a loud hue and cry might be prudent (though I am aware of the inertia of “crowd bystander effect”). If I saw a rape taking place, would I jump in and bash the perpetrator in the head with a handy club? Gosh, I’d hope I would. If someone attacked my children or a loved one, would I jump in and attack in kind? Nature would take over and you can bet I would. In fact I hope I’d do whatever was right and necessary, at all times.

      But sometimes, especially if it involves only yourself, you may think a physical reaction will not be right or prudent. Common sense has a part to play. Jesus said nothing about self-defence or any of these things and only left us with the single “live and die by the sword” allusion. I think it means that if you go around thinking you can force one’s will on others by assault and violence, sooner or later someone bigger and meaner will come along to do the same to you.

      This subject is interesting too because I have been re-reading “Nineteen-eighty-four” by George Orwell. At the heart of our human disputes, it all seems to come down to the “freedom to say 2+2=4” (or, if you like, the equal freedom to say 2+2=5). O’Brien used the pain machine to compel Winston, not to believe 2+2 =5 because it was “right” in itself – that was “old” thinking – but because it was right because the Party said so. Orwell was not making a metaphysical or mathematical point, but a point about freedom and the way it is subverted by every attempt to compel another’s thoughts. In the end, whether we think 2+2=4 or 2+2=5 is not the problem, but whether we think everyone who thinks opposite to us commits a punishable crime.
      I think this applies to the religious dimension. We are constantly being tempted to accuse others of Thoughtcrime and, like O’Brien, finding it intolerable. In our own ways we all have our “Big Brother”; we have periodic “Hate” sessions; we have our own versions of the Anti-Sex League; and we all have, deep within our consciousness, our own dreaded “Room 101” which informs our theology and ethical practice. The analogies hold to a very large extent in my view; fascinating, and important.

      When it comes to religion and ideas, I can’t see how physical violence can ever be warranted.

      • ed pacht says:

        “When it comes to religion and ideas, I can’t see how physical violence can ever be warranted.”

        How about emotional violence? The old saw needs to be rewritten at least sometimes: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names hurt even worse.” Sometimes they really do.

      • Stephen K says:

        ed, you make a good point, and I think what you say is true. The psychological damage of abuse and bullying outlasts the physical damage (as rape and torture and abuse victims often testify or manifest). Yes, of course, mental and verbal violence is also real and pervasive. No argument there. But both bombs, bashing and browbeating are all bad.

  18. Francis says:

    @Stephen K: pubs, in my experience, are the best places for such discussions…while the Ashes go on telly, or Fulham against Whatnot United.

    “When it comes to religion and ideas, I can’t see how physical violence can ever be warranted.”

    This leads me to think upon what might happen when religion and ideas are embodied in a body, or several bodies, of people in an environment marked by scarcity of resources and limited access to structures of power? The different groups will pursue resources and power in the same struggle. It is precisely religion and ideas that will give them the symbolic tools for buttressing their claims and justifying their actions. Symbolic and material determinism, in such a context, are inseparable. The struggle for resources and power will take a religious and ideological character. Of course, such situations of scarcity are not universal- but let’s assume they are rather widespread. It is perhaps only as a self-coherent group, with an inner morality of acquisition and mechanisms of distribution, that men can socially address scarcity. He who controls scarcity, detains power. In that sense, the one who controls scarcity binds men together – in a religious bond precisely. What matters then: the action (wars, struggle, etc), or that which justifies the action (religion, ideas, necessity).

    To think about this is also perhaps to think about means and ends. Christianity can be many things: a religion, a nation, an institution, a face, anything, in fact, that is a means towards an end, a means completely turned to and attuned to that End. Perhaps this is reductionist. But then we must ask about the costs of this genuine conversion- is it the “patrimony” of the church, prebends, palaces, sinecures, all marbled and tax free, is it the individual christian, is it christian families, is it convents of nuns giving themselves up as sacrificial victims for reparation – or rather, is it the indifference of a world that is no more sensitive to the generosity of selflessness. Even when the Church tries to turn to the world, it is met with the world’s indifference, if not contempt, as with the Catholic church after VII. But the world’s contempt is surely a good thing.

    I’ve been reading about St Bernard and some Carthusians and their correspondence with the founders of the Templars and other crusaders. There is a notion in those letters of a battle being raged at multiple fronts. Within and without man himself, here (Europe, Clairvaux, la Grande Chartreuse) and there (the Levant). Guigo of the Chartreuse constantly exhorts the knights to practise the virtues, humility above all, and to pray that the flesh is constantly submitted to the spirit. Unfortunately, history is here to tell us how much the monastic counsels were heeded.

    • Stephen K says:

      Francis, your post is full of ideas that require some considerable thought. It’s an important set of issues to grapple with. Thank you! I need time to digest them before commenting or taking them further, but I will.

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