Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wither "the Branch Theory"?

Over the years as the Industrial Revolution took hold and the world's population traveled and communicated more and more across boundaries, the world and the Catholic Church have become much more aware of its diversity.

Intellectually awareness hasn't changed. Intellectually people have always understood diversity. But seeing it is a different matter. Now diversity is a personal experience thanks to jumbo jets whizzing people and television and computer screens beaming images.

The Catholic Church as a group -- its bishops, priests and laymen in all the far-flung dioceses -- have also become much more aware of its diversity. Pope John Paul II was the first jet-setting Pope, visiting countries, meeting with strangely vested Catholics from other countries, all live on CNN. And at his funeral, 24-hour cable channels showed worldwide those same differently dressed Catholics worshiping and grieving next to their white Western European co-religionists.

This recognition of diversity has led the Church's bishops and priests to be much more aware of approved liturgies. Satellites, telephones, and now the internet has made it much easier for these grassroots Catholics to learn about and allow all the different diverse approved liturgies.

These changes have helped make Anglicanorum Coetibus possible. Catholics far away from Rome are much more aware of who is and who is not in communion with Peter.

I thought of all this when reading the post about the Branch Theory on Anglican Patrimony. The Branch Theory was developed back when grassroots Anglicans and Catholics were far less aware of the diversity of the Catholic Church, and therefore Catholics in particular were much less willing to accept deviation from their local norm. How could they be sure that this strange practice was licit? With technology, came more knowledge and acceptance of diversity, and a better understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches in all parts of the Church.

I suspect that as the diversity of the Catholic Church becomes even better known by those in the pews in Anglican and Catholic parishes, the attractiveness of the Branch Theory will lessen. The intellectual, theological arguments have not changed and will still be debated among intellectuals and theologians, but the meaning of those arguments, the images in one's brain that those words elicit, has changed for those in the pews. Fewer and fewer in Western countries when hearing the words "the Catholic Church" today think only of white European bishops dressed in European vestments.


The particular passage that led to these thoughts is this one:

This is strikingly evident in the two prevailing interpretations of the Portsmouth Statement (from which Bp Strawn quotes selections) and Anglicanorum Coetibus and its Complementary Norms. Those who still hold to some form of Branch Theory interpret it as Bishop Strawn did. Those who have rejected the Branch Theory interpret these documents understanding that there is no separating submission to the See of Peter from being in communion with the See of Peter. Thus key words and phrases like "absorption," "in communion," "Catholic," "Roman Catholic," etc., mean different things to the two parties.
Words have meanings at a deeper level than the intellectual. When words are used, images are associated. The two sides, as discussed in this post, have competing images. When they close their eyes and mediate on "the Catholic Church" and "the Roman Catholic Church", competing visions are seen. This is not just an intellectual disagreement that can be solved by appeals to scripture, tradition or reason. Technology has changed those visions and has changed, and will change, the debate and the outcome.

1 comment:

  1. The Catholic Church is catholic because she has one authority (Christ) and is found everywhere (Universal). By being everywhere, she can embrace what is good in customs of a particular place. The Branch Theory says that the particular churches (Greek, Roman and Anglican) are "branches" of the One Holy Catholic Church. But in insisting that this is so, the theory presupposes that one branch has all the fullness of the faith, in liturgy, Christian life and spirituality. But this can only be true if the branches are attached to the tree, which is the Roman Pontiff's own particular church, the Church of Rome.

    Thus even if a particular Catholic church like the Maronites celebrate the liturgy in a different way, of if the Syro-Malankara Catholic bishops are vested in a rather strange way, we are sure that they have the fullness of faith because of their communion with Rome.


All comments will be moderated at the sole discretion of "Anglican Use in the Philippines" Mere submission of the comment form does not guarantee comment will be posted. Comments will be moderated based on appropriate language, topic, subject matter and relevance. "Anglican Use in the Philippines" is not obligated to post comments that slander the Catholic and Anglican Churches.