Anglican patrimony and paradigm shifts

Russell Shaw has a thought-provoking essay at The Catholic Thing (a daily stop for me in the blogsophere), where he looks at the use of the word “paradigm shift” to describe what is going on with the papacy of Pope Francis in light of what happened at the Lambeth Conference of 1930.
It is at Lambeth the Anglican world opened the door a crack to allow for artificial contraception.  Well, we know what happened after that, and if there is anything “Anglican” about what happened, we would certainly want to jettison it as not part of the Anglican patrimony we wish to preserve in the Ordinariates.

Shaw writes:

In Eliot’s astute and occasionally acerbic evaluation of the 1930 Lambeth, one section particularly caught my eye: a five-page treatment of Resolution 15 in which the Anglican bishops, for the first time ever, extended guarded, conditional approval to the use of contraceptives by married couples in cases where there is both “a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood” and “a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence.”


Let me quote the relevant passage in Eliot’s text lest there be any doubt whether I am representing him accurately:

To put it frankly, but I hope not offensively, the Roman view in general seems to me to be that a principle must be affirmed without exception; and that thereafter exceptions can be dealt with, without modifying the principle. The view natural to the English mind, I believe, is rather that a principle must be framed in such a way as to include all allowable exceptions. It follows inevitably that the Roman Church must profess to be fixed, while the Anglican Church must profess to take account of changed conditions.

What Eliot says about the “Roman view” would no doubt have to be reconsidered today in light of what Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on moral principles, Veritatis Splendor, says about absolute moral norms.

But the fact remains – and this is the point I’m making here – that what he says about the Anglican mind (“a principle must be framed in such a way as to include all allowable exceptions”) could serve as a concise statement of what the paradigm shift advocated by Cardinals Kasper, Parolin, and others proposes to bring about.

Well, assuredly not among those of us in the Ordinariates.  You will not find among us the same divisions on say Humanae Vitae that you might find in the Roman Catholic parish down the street where the majority ignores the teachings on contraception.  We had to sign on that we believed these teachings in order to come into the Catholic Church.

The aim of the Christian life is to have “that mind which was in Christ Jesus” and leave behind the mind of the carnal old man, including such things as the “Anglican mind” that has led to doctrinal chaos and disunity in the Anglican Communion.

However, perhaps for Shared Treasure, it would be interesting to explore on a scholarly level how the difference in an English approach to law vs. the Roman approach could possibly be patrimonial in terms of political governance in the Anglosphere and what makes a society with rights recognized as held by individuals different from those governments of Catholic colonies that did not.   What is the contrast between the English common law tradition vs. the top-down Roman law approach?  Where does the Magna Carta fit in?  Any takers for an article in our journal?






10 thoughts on “Anglican patrimony and paradigm shifts

  1. With the Eternal City now seemingly overflowing with the same crypto-relativistic filth, and the fact that not only is the current pontificate perniciously promoting the same, but the Roman laity as a general principle is much more reflexively ultramontanist and deferential to central authority than Anglicans probably ever were, one wonders whether those who rightly jumped out of the splintering little Anglican rafts didn’t just get rescued by the Titanic. The old Chinese curse — “May you live in interesting times” — has certainly fallen upon us.


  2. TO FOLLOW your reading in the blogosphere, may I refer to mine this morning in VATICAN NEWS. A real ” paradigm shift” in the Sweden city of Lund, The Lutheran Pastor of the 11th century Cathedral, formally known as St. Laurence Cathedral, prior to the Reformation, has given the local Catholic Parish permission to celebrate Holy Mass there while their own parish church undergoes renovations, the first time the Catholic Eucharist has been celebrated in this beautiful cathedral for over 500years. A great Ecumenical step. The full story can be found in Vatican News, an interesting article to read the full story of the joint efforts of both religions following The Holy Father Francis visit to Sweden, Lund and nearby city of Malmo. I visited that Cathedral back in 1999.


    • Actually, this is now a two-way street. Many Catholic pastors also have opened the doors of their parish churches to Protestant communities whose facilities were damaged by a fire or storm, or were under repair, on an emergency or temporary basis.

      Incidentally, the occasional need for this sort of accommodation is a very compelling reason for the tabernacle in a parish church to be in a separate chapel of reservation rather than in the main worship space.



      • YES, Norm that is true here in Australia also. I am aware of requiem services being held in Catholic churches for non catholic deceased persons, where the pastor of the noncatholic parish has sort permission from the local parish priest for use of the Catholic church as that church is larger, and it is known that the funeral service will be attended by many people. The good will between the two clergymen, has allowed for the permission sort to be granted. I have also known of the use of an Anglican church by the Catholics for Sunday Holy Mass when the Catholic church was destroyed by fire. This situation went on for many months because of the time taken for the rebuilding of the Catholic Church. Wonderful, “COME HOLY SPIRIT”.


  3. There are a couple issues that are critical here: (1) the distinction between moral doctrine and theological doctrine and (2) the difference between the English legal tradition and the Roman legal tradition.

    First, the Catholic Church has always maintained that there are two distinct bodies of doctrine.

    >> Moral doctrine is deduced from the order of the universe by reason alone, and does not depend in any way upon divine revelation. In classical Western philosophy, it’s called Natural Law. Moral doctrine, therefore, is universal, applying to the whole human species without regard to religious belief or lack thereof. As such, it is an appropriate and necessary guide to action in the larger society, including in a position of secular government.

    >> Theological doctrine, on the other hand, depends upon divine revelation contained in sacred scripture and tradition. Theological doctrine governs only those who adhere to our faith. It is NOT appropriate for Christians to act based upon religious beliefs in any official capacity of secular government because to do so would be to impose our faith on others who do not adhere to it.

    The division of the Ten Commandments into two tablets is not accidental. In the standard depiction in Catholic art, the first tablet contains the religious precepts and the second tablet contains the moral precepts. Likewise, the dogmatic constitution Pastor aeternus states clearly that the dogma popularly called “papal infallibility” applies to both. Here’s the relevant paragraph (boldface mine).

    9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

    I lament that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not divided into two volumes — one containing the moral doctrine and another containing the theological doctrine — because the distinction is critical when we are acting in the secular realm.

    Of course, the belief in a Creator carries the direct implication that the Creator is the giver of what’s inherent in the order of Creation, and thus that Natural Law is a manifestation of the Creator’s will, and thus that that whatever is “evil” — that is, contrary to natural law — also constitutes “sin” — that is, a transgression of the Creator’s divine will. It also means that divine revelation — scripture and tradition — might not contain the whole of moral doctrine, but in any case cannot contradict it: God does not contradict himself.

    Scientific knowledge of our world and our universe is axiomatic to moral doctrine, so scientific discoveries may sometimes require reconsideration of moral principles. Here, the scientific discovery of the human ovum and the fusion of an ovum and a sperm cell to form an embryo is a great example: the previous theory held each sperm cell to be a complete human being in “seed” form, with the obvious implication that acts such as masturbation by a male that caused emission of sperm other than into a woman’s womb were intrinsically evil because they constituted murder. The discovery that a sperm cell is not a complete embryo obviously required reevaluation of that moral precept.

    The bottom line here is that moral doctrine IS absolute, but our understanding of it can, and sometimes must, change.

    Theological doctrine, on the other hand, depends upon divine revelation, which does not change. Of course, this does not exclude the possibility that theological study may lead to further development and clarification of theological doctrine. Asked whether the Second Vatican Council had defined any new doctrine, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger replied in the negative, but then promptly added that the council had stated explicitly what had previously been implicit. This is particularly true of the dogmatic constitutions Lumen gentium on the church and Dei verbum on divine revelation.

    Now, as to the difference in legal traditions, it is true that the English and Roman legal traditions are very different.

    >> In the Roman legal tradition, a law is given for a purpose, and it states the normative practice for the situations that it foresees — but it does not apply to situations that are outside of its purpose or that it does not foresee. Thus, the law is never without exception. However, the law frequently expands to encompass exceptions that arise frequently.

    >> In the English legal tradition, by contrast, the law is an absolute rule that governs every situation that fall within its language, regardless of whether the legislator has foreseen that situation or not.

    The difference is best exemplified by what one does when one approaches a red traffic signal at a rural crossroads at an hour that the Marines call “Oh-Dark-Thirty” when there is no other traffic. In the English legal tradition, one must stop and wait for the light to turn green regardless of whether other vehicles are present or not. In the Roman legal tradition, however, the understanding would be that the signal is there to promote the orderly flow of traffic, and thus to prevent collisions, when vehicles approach the intersection from more than one direction. Thus, it would be understood that the signals do not apply to situations in which there is only one vehicle approaching the intersection — making it quite acceptable to proceed through the red signal if there were no other vehicles approaching the intersection.

    With respect to contraception, the universal moral principles articulated by the Catholic Church are clear.

    >> 1. Sexual intercourse is permissible only within a marriage.

    >> 2. Sexual intercourse always must be open to the possibility of procreation because that is the fundamental nature and orientation of the act.

    These two norms clearly imply that there is no common situation in which the use of any artificial means of contraceptive is morally permissible — the position that Pope Paul VI articulated in the encyclical Humanae vitae. Note, however, that an “encyclical” is a type of document in which, by definition, the pope expresses his personal opinion on a theological or moral issue. It is NOT a magisterial document that can be promulgated ex cathedra (see the quotation from the dogmatic constitution Pastor Bonus above), and thus does NOT cause theological or moral doctrine to become infallible (though an encyclical clearly can reiterate and further explain doctrine established as infallible prior to its promulgation). Rather, the pope would have to issue an “apostolic constitution” — which is a magisterial document — stating explicitly that it’s promulgated ex cathedra to cause doctrine to become infallible. Thus, Catholic doctrine on artificial means of contraception officially remains open to the possibility of some exception. In one of the most controversial comments of his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI identified situations involving sexually transmitted disease in which he said the use of condoms “might be tolerable” as the lesser of evils or as a first step toward responsible behavior — not exactly official recognition of an exception, but nevertheless clear indication that he thought that exceptions still might exist.

    And here, I need to insert a caution. Many of our poorly formed Catholic brethren, sometimes with the encouragement of misinformed confessors, eagerly misconstrue the fact that an exception might still exist as license to do what they want with no regard for, and no understanding of, the moral principles involved. Rather, individual conscience must be informed by thorough study of the moral precepts and analysis of one’s own situation, preferably with the aid of a well-informed confessor. All popes are men of extraordinary intelligence who have access to the most capable scholars in the world to advise them on theological and moral issues. It is utterly irresponsible — and reprehensible — to disregard their opinions cavalierly, as far too many of our brethren tend to do, especially when one’s salvation is at stake. The Creator’s will, manifest in Natural Law, is nevertheless the Creator’s will.



  4. NORM, I thank you so much for your posting regarding the Moral and Theological Doctrine, as articulated by the Catholic Church. I am sure it is of great help to many of us who read the A C Society site. THANKS.


  5. It seemed to me that Cardinal Muller said what needs to be said about this mis-application of the notion of a ‘paradigm shift’, a couple of month ago:
    (the final paragraph is a good read for those with little time)

    It is distressing if the discussion is being framed with the erroneous concept that the truths of the Catholic Church’s teaching are on the same plane as scientific models which are rightly subject to paradigm shifts, as expounded by Thomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ several decades ago.


    • With respect to a paradigm shift, what Pope John Paul II wrote in the encyclical Ut unam sint regarding a possible transformation of the papal office is very instructive (internal citations removed).

      95. All this however must always be done in communion. When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also “vicars and ambassadors of Christ”. The Bishop of Rome is a member of the “College”, and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry.
      Whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly forms part of the concerns of the primacy. As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware, as I have reaffirmed in the present Encyclical Letter, that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in “a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator”.

      In such matters, the distinction between doctrine, which is immutable, and discipline (or practice), which can — and must — respond adaptively to changes in pastoral situations to minister effectively to God’s people is critical.



      • I must admit that my take on the remarks by Card Muller do not accord to any “paradigm shift” in regard to church doctrine. The Exhortation “The Joy of Love, Amoris Laetitia” gives a wonderful explanation of the doctrine of the Church regarding Marriage. Pope Francis looks at the realities that face married couples and their families as they struggle to live out the fullness of their vocation in the face of a hostile, secular society that no longer accepts the Religious values of committed Christians. His document is a blend of the doctrines that must underpin married life (no paradigm shift here) and the pastoral care that the Church must offer to those who unite in love outside of the married state and the plight of those who are divorced or separated. In all of this , his focus is on the welfare of the couples as well as the children they may have and for the good of the Church which DOES NOT withdraw its compassion, love and mercy, for those who are “marginalised”, to use his favourite word. Yes, we did have a Year of Mercy, some time ago!!! Again I see NO Paradigm Shift in our Catholic/Christian doctrine here. I am fairly sure that this is what the Catholic Church, and indeed all Christians are called upon to do, in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


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