25 November 2009

Rowan's Lecture

I'm not going to give a long treatise on Rowan's Rome lecture; just to invite you to read the text of it. It raises many questions - one criticism might be that it is more than one lecture - on some of which I hope to publish elsewhere. I hope that others who are so sure that what he has said is risible will put into the public domain precise and argued exposes of his errors. But here is a little detail that intrigues me.

He distinguishes between 'second order' and 'first order' issues. I have a recollection that, in the early 1990s, some liberal bishops made just this distinction, adding that local churches could make their own decisions about second order issues like the ordination of women. They were then attacked by their angry lady-friends, who were quite certain that wymynprysts was a first order question ... and a few days later, much battered, they withdrew the distinction (incidentally, if you read Rowan's text you will see that, contrary to the assumptions of some who haver commented on it, he does very carefully state how he distinguishes between first and second order issues).

Just as in the 1990s, Rowan's comments on First and Second Order Issues can be read two ways. He goes on "When so very much agreement has been firmly established in first-order matters about the identity and mission of the Church, is it really justifiable to treat other issues as equally vital for its health and integrity?" OK ... everybody assumes that this is an ad hominem (or should I say ad Urbem?) argument addressed to the Roman Magisterium.

But couldn't you turn it round and address it to those who seek, whatever the cost, to force wymynprysts upon Anglicanism? "X is not important enough to make a great fuss about" cuts two ways? Yes?

Is there a 'fork'* here?

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The Tudor financier Cardinal Morton impaled you on one or the other of the two prongs of his fork by arguing that if you led a sumptuous life-style you could afford to pay a lot of tax; and that if you were a skinflint ...

9 comments:

Diagnostic said...

Dr Williams' arguments are fatuous at best. As a man who, supposedly, is very knowledgeable about theology it is beyond me how he manages to misunderstand or ride roughshod over the most basic points of Catholic theology.

Where does this distinction of "first order" and "second order" come from? What basis does he have for this hierarchy of doctrine?

More to the point the man clearly does not believe in the infallibility of the Church. This is the rub. If the Church is has always and everywhere condemned the belief that women can be ordained priests then how is affirming that doctrine anything other than a denial of the infallibility of the Church. Furthermore, Roman Catholics hold that the the it is part of immutable Apostolic Tradition that the Bishop of Rome has the authority to exercise the Church's infallibility. Since a pope has declared authoritatively that it is heresy to say women can be ordained priests then to reverse this condemnation he is also asking Catholics to declare publicly that the See of Rome was in error.

These things are not "second order" and to say so and claim to be an educated theologian beggars belief.

Nebuly said...

Much as I respect His grace I feel very unhappy about this and as Diagnostic hints at a Vincentian Canon approach I feel that these approaches fall.

We have ordained women as a second order adjustment to the received Apostolic Order historically acknowledged by all everywhere, until the Protestant rupture.

Were the local Church in England to adjust the Ministry as our Presbyterian and Methodist friends have would this also be a second order issue which should not be Church separating?

Perhaps that is what the Meissen and Porvoo agreements and the Methodist Covenant have been about? Perhaps we believe this officially already and ARCIC has to be read through this prism?

I do hope not.........

rev'd up said...

Rowan apparently was referencing C.S. Lewis essay "First and Second Things." Quoting:

"To sacrifice the greater good for the less and then not to get the lesser good after all--that is the surprising folly. . . Every preference of a small good to a great, or a partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice was made. Apparently the world is made that way. If Esau really got his pottage in return for his birthright, then Esau was a lucky exception. You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first."

Rowan needs to re-read Lewis and apply his philosophical genius appropriately. Either that or he needs to admit to third, fourth, fifth, etc. goods. Where does it end?

The thing that is missing from Rowan's lecture is a pursuit of the objective good. Is it possible he can't recognize it anymore? In this regard, another Lewis allusion would put Rowan into the nefarious mix of antagonists in the Space Trilogy.

Quid est veritas?

rev'd up said...

Quoting Lewis that is...

David said...

I have formed opinions on that address only to reverse them the following day and again the day after that. I do feel, however, that the archbishop is treating the sacrament of orders aspart of the bene esse rather than the esse of the Church and this I cannot accept.

By the way, why does everyone call the archbishop by his first name?

Nebuly said...

David I heartily agree:

Archbishop Robert? ( Runcie )
Archbishop Donald? Michael? Geoffrey?

Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar

One used to wait to be invited to first name terms. This is part of a false and shallow equality which seeks to make light of office and enthrone personality

Cherub said...

When I was at the 1978 Lambeth Conference I heard a lecture from the Rev'd Dr John Macquarrie. In that lecture he did not refer so much as to first and second order as to what he regarded as central doctrines in the hierarchy of of truths. He said that he thought that "the question of whether women can be priests belongs to this outer grey peripheral area." At the time I thought it was nonsense. If the sacraments are necessary for salvation then the celebrant needs to be validly ordained to be able to confect valid sacraments. Archbishop Williams, (and I do think it unnecessarily rude to be calling him 'Rowan') has simply reproduced this line of reasoning. I find it to be no mre valid today than 30 years ago. Moreover, who has the authority to decide what is peripheral or second order, and what is central or first order? Now that really is a serious question.

Steve said...

No, Diagnostic, Archbishop Williams does not believe in the "infallibility of the Church" in anything like the terms in which you have expressed it. Neither do I: and there is nothing in the New Testament or the historic formularies of the Church of England which requires either of us to do so.

Sir Watkin said...

"By the way, why does everyone call the archbishop by his first name?"

I can discern three factors:

1. The general cult of informality and pseudo-friendliness, which is now rampant in Britain - to the point where it is almost rude not to address people by their Christian names*. (It is salutary to reflect how much British society has changed in the last twenty years.)

2. The fact that Williams before his elevation was on friendly terms with a great many people. Thus there was a large body of influential churchmen who (more or less genuinely) were on first-name terms with him, and their example was taken up generally.

3. Williams is a common name, but Rowan is not. If you say "Carey" or "Sentamu" everyone instantly knows whom you mean, without having to deduce it from the context; if you said "George" or "John" they wouldn't. So there's a natural bias towards using the surname. With someone called Rowan Williams this is reversed.

* This has led to an odd reversal of the former convention. In certain circles surnames are now used in a jocular way as a sign of intimacy and familiarity. Your friends refer to you as "Smith", distinguishing themselves thereby from the Toms, Dicks and Harrys who now presume to call you "John" as a default.