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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Anglicans and Contraception

Filipino society is probably the last on earth to seriously debate on artificial contraception as part of the 2011 Reproductive Health bill (RH). However, debate on this is more than a hundred years old when as a result of worsening living conditions in England as a result of migration and the Industrial Revolution, in a classic Malthusian sense birth control was seen as a way to solve the problem.

The Anglican Communion at first opposed artificial contraception as stated in Resolution 68 of the 1920 Lambeth Conference

"We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers - physical, moral and religious - thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race. In opposition to the teaching which, under the name of science and religion, encourages married people in the deliberate cultivation of sexual union as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must always be regarded as the governing considerations of Christian marriage. One is the primary purpose for which marriage exists, namely the continuation of the race through the gift and heritage of children; the other is the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control."

Then the Anglican bishops held on to the traditional belief on fertility regulation. However in the 1930  Lambeth Conference (Resolution 15), Anglicans approved contraception in particular cases.

"Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience."

One hundred ninety three bishops voted "yes" and sixty seven voted "no".

The Anglican Communion was the first of the non-Catholic churches to allow contraception. Since then most non Catholic churches have allowed artificial contraception. A few small Protestant churches  more or less still hold the Roman Catholic position on the matter. The Orthodox churches hold varying views on the matter with some bishops lauding Humanae vitae and some allowing for a more liberal view. The Roman Catholic Church remains vehemently opposed to artificial contraception on moral grounds even if a sizeable number of Catholics do not agree with her.

However many Anglicans at the time opposed the resolution. You can find various positions opposing it here. Those opposed were mainly from the Anglo Catholic wing with some from the Evangelical wing of the Church of England. It is notable that in all these essays, the writers appealed to the unchanging practice of the Holy Catholic Church.

This opposition crosses into the history of Anglicanism in the Philippines. Father John Staunton of St Mary's Sagada was resolutely against the Lambeth decision and he became a Roman Catholic priest afterwards.

The Anglican Communion has based its stance on the practical difficulties of married couples and that by 1958, the bishops had accepted that many Anglicans use contraception and left the decision to use it on the couples themselves.

Today this is the general position of the Anglican Church. Many Orthodox churches hold a similar position to that of the 1930 Lambeth resolution. Many Roman Catholic laity, priests and even bishops and cardinals privately or publicly hold similar positions to that of the Anglican one.  The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has recently published its position on the RH bill. The ECP's support of the bill is consistent with the Anglican Communion's 1958 stance on the matter that the decision on what contraceptive to use lies with the married couple. This is also the general position of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) which the ECP is a founding member.

Nonetheless in the debates on the RH bill in the Philippines one of the Anglican divines in 1930 asks a question that is valid and relevant for us today.

"How far will the argument for contraceptives logically carry us?"

This same theologian also anticipates the Blessed Pope John Paul II's challenge on his election as pope. "Be not afraid"!

"The Church is right after all; we may not put asunder ends which God has joined together. And, if we think, with some timid persons of long ago, that "if the case of a man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry," we must leave the joy and the pain, the laughter and the tears, of home to those who are not afraid of them."

This is something Roman Catholics in the Philippines have lost in the debate on RH. We may be afraid to live and so we look for the easy way out!

The Anglo Catholic wing of the Church of England in 1930 even had a collect for pro life and against artificial contraception!

O Holy Father, enable us always to think and pursue such things as are pure, lovely and of good report; that by Thy grace we may become fit to glorify and enjoy Thee forever; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"England will find her way back to me"

Many years ago, an Anglo-Catholic friend gave me as a birthday present a book which contains all the messages of Our Lady of All Nations. The book has the nihil obstat and imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Westminster. It is known that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a Dutch woman, Ms. Ida Peerdeman, just as the Second World War was ending in 1945. Her visions of the Virgin lasted until 1959 and from that time on, she had inner locutions and Eucharistic experiences which lasted until 1984. Ms Peerdeman died in 1996 and throughout these years was under the care of a Catholic priest as her spiritual director. The Diocese of Haarlem in the Netherlands declared the visions as worthy of belief

The messages of Our Lady of All Nations focused on forming a human community and brotherhood that we may have peace. It is only in this manifestation that the Holy Virgin Mary specifically mentioned the Anglican Church that she may remain a communion while being drawn into unity by the Pope of Rome. The Virgin did not say that the Anglican communion (in the visions shown as the spires of the churches of England) must be absorbed but that it must be drawn closer to Rome for it to be saved. Ms. Peerdeman had visions showing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope in Westminster Abbey with the Pope extending a blessing to the Anglican bishops. But the Virgin said that much change will befall the Anglican Church and that Rome must be forewarned. She did not say what these changes are.

When I first read the book in the 1990s, these messages did not make sense, but with the disintegration of Anglicanism and  Anglicanorum  coetibus it now does and the prophecy has been fulfilled. In September 2010, Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury prayed at Westminster Abbey and the Pope gave his blessing to the clergy of the Church of England. At that moment the Anglican Communion was being drawn closer to Rome, who first sent the missioners to convert the English.

It appears that the Blessed Virgin Mary will restore what was lost at the Reformation through the Anglicans and this has started with Lutherans beginning to follow the Anglicans to communion with Rome.

The prophecies also allude to the non humanist secularism that has engulfed Europe and now is in the Philippines. They also allude to a pontiff that would lead the struggle against it. This is no one but Benedict XVI. And this may be the reason why the Blessed Virgin has specifically challenged England, who by her Christian foundations nurtured and guaranteed liberty which we in the Philippines too enjoy though our inheritance from the United States.

The Lady said referring to the Anglican Church and England " Religion will have a hard struggle and they want to tread it under foot. This will be done so cunningly that scarcely anyone will notice it."  I believe this is a warning of the non secular humanism and relativistic humanism that has engulfed Europe, America and even the Philippines. The visions also refer to the Anglican churches which the Blessed Virgin encloses in an iron hoop and writes above them the words " Brotherly Love", "Justice" and "Truth". The Lady said that this has not yet come about and then points at Rome reminding the See of Rome that the Anglicans should practice these virtues in the fullest sense. In these visions it appears that the Anglicans must be brought nearer to the Roman See if they are to remain a communion.

The Virgin commands in English "England, you must return to the Highest!, the Highest!".

The prophecies are fulfilled for Pope Benedict XVI sounded his battle call at the birthplace of English liberties at Westminster Hall. England must return to its Christian foundations or else we lose our liberties. This is something I have blogged about and some people didn't get what I mean.

[Is Benedict XVI the elderly German archbishop alluded to in this struggle? He as head of the CDF has staunchly resisted moral relativism. It is now beginning to make sense!]

In this whole story, the Anglicans will definitely at the centre. The  Church of England has the obligation to defend the Christian foundation of England from non humanistic secularism which has affected it. The Church of England will have to return to its Biblical foundations. The Anglican Church too must return to the Highest!

The Blessed Virgin is traditionally known as the Queen of Prophets. She in this way has been for us the Prophet of the Anglican Ordinariates.

The prayer for the intercession of Our Lady of All Nations is

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the Father,
send now Your Spirit over the earth.
Let the Holy Spirit live
in the heart of all nations,
that they may be preserved from
degeneration,disaster and war.
May the Lady of All Nations,who once was Mary,
be our Advocate.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ordinariate Mass books are now ready, Deacon appointed as Lateran Professor

The Tablet reports that the English Ordinariate's Mass and prayer books are now ready and are awaiting Rome's approval. It is hoped that approval will be had just in time for Pentecost, when most of the former Anglican clergy and now transitional deacons, are ordained priests. The Mass books will have an "Anglican flavour". How Anglican this will be is something we await!

One of these deacons is the Reverend Professor Allen Brent DD who is considered as an authority on early Christianity. He was recently appointed as professare invitato at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. Reverend Professor Brent was formerly with my alma mater, James Cook University, where he was associate professor of history from 1980-1995. He was a priest incardinated with the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland during that time.

For those interested in heraldry, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham's coat of arms are here together with its heraldic description.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Episcopal Church in the Philippines concludes 2011 Synod

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines recently concluded its 2011 Synod in Sagada, Mt Province. According to our friends in the ECP, the synod passed resolutions on the following

1.Episcopal Diocese of Southern Phil. officially was divided in two, the name of the new diocese is EDD (Episcopal Diocese of Davao)
2. As of today, we have 47 full fledged-parishes all over the Philippines
3. Resolution in support of the Reproductive Health bill was passed
4. The ECP hymnal became final with the removal of the "Trial Use"
5. The retirement age for ECP clergy remains 60 and not 65.
6. The next synod will be held in May, 2014 in Cathedral Heights, Q.C.

The continued growth of the ECP beyond its traditional mission areas in the Cordilleras is most welcomed. This means the church is becoming more present in the whole Philippines. The erection of a Diocese of Davao is notable for it means a stronger missionary presence in Mindanao.

Also last May 9, the ECP marked the centennial of Bishop Benito Cabanban's birth. Bp Cabanban is the first Filipino bishop of the ECP. He passed away in 1990.

More news on the ECP can be found at the Facebook group of Pinoy Episcopalians.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Pope, your Pope, everyone's Pope

On Labour day 2011, Pope John Paul II will be beatified by his successor and good friend Benedict XVI. John Paul II is the only Pope I truly know. True that I now know who Benedict is, but I still have found it a bit more difficult to digest his encyclicals. I was born during the Papacy of Paul VI, but all I can remember of Paul VI is his shell shocked Hamlet-like expression as a result of Humanae Vitae. John Paul I I remember as a smiling Bishop of Rome but he reigned only for a month or so.

My father read the news of John Paul II's election and he couldn't figure out where this Pope came from. He thought he was Russian. In a sense John Paul II was unexpected and only now we know why God chose him to lead Christ's flock.

John Paul II responded to God's call for him to be a Pontiff whose original meaning is "bridge builder". He was able to bridge distances with his jet setting apostolic journeys. In one of them in 1981, then Protestant me got blessed.  I waved and he blessed me (or what was probably the crowd), but still I was blessed. And I saw him, he was so pink in the tropical heat.

And that was the start of the long walk to learn what Catholicism is. And when I saw this prayerful man, pray at Canterbury with the Primate of All England.

Note that his shoes were old and well trodden. An apt reality of a man tasked to preach the Good News by word and deed! And who says the Pope wore Prada!?!?!

In a gesture that shocked traditionalists, Pope John Paul II in 1986 prayed with representatives of many religions in Assisi in a World Day of Prayer. His address is here. But this is the gist of his address is this

"Peace goes much beyond human efforts, particularly in the present plight of the world, and therefore that its source and realization is to be sought in that Reality beyond all of us"

There can be no Peace without God!

To which Benedict XVI reflected on a letter to the Bishop of Assisi on the 20th anniversary of that prayer gathering

"It is under this profile that the initiative John Paul II promoted 20 years ago has acquired the features of an accurate prophecy. His invitation to the world's religious leaders to bear a unanimous witness to peace serves to explain with no possibility of confusion that religion must be a herald of peace."

It is said that for that moment when all of them prayed in Assisi, no gunshot was fired in anger!

John Paul II is credited by many as the one person who toppled atheistic Communism in Eastern Europe. But he himself said that it was due to people who thirsted for truth, liberty and faith that made it happen.

The Pope in his later years showed the deterioration associated with Parkinson's disease. His journey then to the gates of Eternal Life was a witness that all life is valuable from conception to its natural end. His concern for the environment sets the stage for an authentic theology of the environment in the 1990 World Day of Peace Message which his successor has further elaborated

And this is so prophetic for the world 21 years later

"When the ecological crisis is set within the broader context of the search for peace within society, we can understand better the importance of giving attention to what the earth and its atmosphere are telling us: namely, that there is an order in the universe which must be respected, and that the human person, endowed with the capability of choosing freely, has a grave responsibility to preserve this order for the well-being of future generations. I wish to repeat that the ecological crisis is a moral issue."

On his death, the Pope was not just a Pope for the Catholics but a Pope for all who have faith. The Bishop of Rome has always been a sign, he is a sign of hope, a sign of contradiction and a sign of unity. During his funeral, it became the largest gathering of world leaders ever. It became the largest gathering of religious leaders. Jews, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Anglicans, Buddhists, Hindus etc prayed for the departed Pope.

The Bishop of Rome continues to witness that in the darkest days of our history as a human society, when we are perilously close to destroying ourselves, there is always another way, the way out!

John Paul II has indeed followed the call of his Master to build bridges and to let walls fall.

Blessed Pope John Paul II, pray for us. Pray that we may build bridges on the road to Peace.