24 April 2009

Mental Reservation ...

... was also used by Anglican Catholics for purposes of survival under the tyranny of Henry VIII. The most famous example was the recognition by Henry VIII as Head of the Church by the Convocation of Canterbury. The assembled clergy signed up to the Government formula, but only with the addition of the words "as far as the law of Christ allows". They were 'mentally reserving' the proposition that Christ's law did not allow the royal headship at all.

Nowadays, the clergy of the C of E are not required as once they were to sware to use the Prayer Book "and none other"; they have to undertake to use only the forms "allowed by canon". This undertaking, of course, is easy peasy. On simply entertains a mental reservation that by 'canon' is meant the Code of Canon Law promulgated by Rome for the Latin Church in 1984. This, indeed, is the position demanded by our ecclesiology anyway. The same reservation modifies the sense of the the oath of canonical obedience to the diocesan bishop "in all things lawful and honest".

A possible additional Reservation when swearing the oath of canonical obedience would be that a See is in fact vacant; having been forfeited by heresy. Sedevacantism, indeed! It could be argued that when a bishop has deliberately and sacrilegiously purported to ordain women to the priesthood; has provided perhaps half of the parishes in his diocese with spurious ministers offering mere simulations of the sacraments; has flouted the authoritative teaching of the Roman Pontiff in Ordinatio sacerdotalis; has ignored the personal plea of a papal emissary not to go ahead with the 'consecration' of 'women bishops'; then he has been guilty of such contumacious, persistent, and unrepented heterodoxy embodied in heteropraxy that he must have forfeited his see. Personally I am not too sure about this. I am not a canonist, but surely, for us papalists, under the Code of 1984, it is necessary for the Sovereign Pontiff, by formal canonical procedings, to depose a bishop before his see becomes vacant. Naturally, Anglo-Catholics who do not take a fully consistent papalist position might not see it in quite this pedantic way, and might indeed feel that since there is no practical way of dealing with the rampant episcopal heresy in the modern C of E, one has to live with models of automatic forfeiture. But ... c'mon ... Johnny Barchester is a very nice man; mired in heresy though he may be, he is terribly sincere. Lean over backwards and grasp at any shred of an argument that, taking the rough with the smooth and considering everything in the round, he might still just possibly be the Bishop of Barchester. Give the bugger the benefit of the doubt. That's what I say.

But what, I hear you ask, about the Barmy Bishop of Bux?

Ahh .....

12 comments:

Richard Duncan said...

Isn't the term "Anglican Catholic" a bit anachronistic in the context of the sixteenth century? It's hardly appropriate when applied to John Fisher and Thomas More, for example?

In fact, isn't the term "Anglican" itself somewhat anachronistic when applied to any period before the Elizabethan Settlement?

Chris said...

I feel I have to ask: Is it really possible for an Anglo-Catholic to "take a fully consistent papalist position" while remaining Anglo?

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I have no reservatons about using mental reservations. When the Inland Revenue wants to know my income, I report it with the mental reservation that I'm referring to predecimal pounds, and I don't credit myself with a pound till I've got 240 pennies. And since farthings are no longer available, and the penny is the closest approximation to a farthing, I actually need 960 pennies before I report a pound.

I further use the reservation that, in my idiolect, "one" means "ten".

Another useful reservation is that I whom several personalities, most of shom don't receive any income at all, so why shouldn't they receive state benefits?

Ttony said...

Does all of this mean that it's fine to take the A of C's shilling while not accepting his role as top Anglican?

Fr Ray Blake said...

One question that has been plaguing me, who is "the Barmy Bishop of Bux"? What is the nature of his barmyness?
As non-toga wearing Catholic, I'm perplexed.

BillyD said...

Quite honestly, I do not understand why "Anglo Papalists" do not just go ahead and submit to the Pope. It's not as if it were difficult - thousands of ordinary people go through RCIA every year. And it's not as if you literally had to go to Rome to do it - your local RC parish should be able to help you.

I suspect that the reason is at least partially because the RCC is not nearly as willing as the CofE et al. when it comes to the shenanigans of dissident clergy. If there's another reason, I wish someone would tell me.

SJH said...

U.S. federal officers have to take an oath specified by the U.S. Code that explicitly rejects (for part of the oath at least) mental reservation.

"An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: 'I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.' This section does not affect other oaths required by law."

Fr. John D. Alexander, SSC said...

BillyD: Well if Anglo-Papalists actually did as you suggested, they wouldn't be Anglo-Papalists anymore. Just Papalists.

BillyD said...

And "Anglo-Papalist" has some sort of cachet that your common or garden variety "Roman Catholic" does not?

Fr John Hunwicke SSC, said...

Fr Blake: Hello! I much enjoy your blog. Buxbish opined, during the Williamson hooha, that the man had started life as an Anglo-Catholic and thatACs have a natural inclination to Holocaust denial.

CPKS said...

Richard Duncan: the term "mental reservation" is not the first that comes to mind when thinking of SS Thomas More and John Fisher. We could have lost a lot of martyrs, from the first century on, if we had only wised up to this principle a little earlier.

How should "witnessing to the gospel" be nuanced in order to accommodate this principle?

Richard Duncan said...

CPKS

Of course you are right, but it was the term "Anglican Catholic" that I was objecting to. THIS cannot be applied to Fisher and More without, as Churchill put it, "some risk of terminological inexactitude", or ... ahem ... a mental reservation.