27 January 2011

Ordinariate, Anglican Patrimony, and theological method

In 1948, Dom Gregory Dix wrote these words in a private (and unpublished) letter:

What are the minimum requirements for [Eucharistic] validity? I suppose: (1) a priest; (2) bread and wine; (3) the Words of Institution. (I personally would reduce this last to any plain indication that the rite now being performed with bread and wine by the priest is intended as a deliberate fulfilment of the command at the Last Supper, touto poieite eis ten anamnesin mou. A repetition of the Words of Institution is the most compendious and unambiguous and best authorised way of doing this.)

Dix was writing about the 1552 Communion Office, not Addai and Mari (the Assyrian Eucharistic Prayer which lacks an Institution Narrative). But I suspect he had AM in mind when adding his bracketed caveat. He more allusively suggests the same conclusion when discussing AM in Shape of the Liturgy. In effect, this is the very conclusion that Rome herself came to (see an earlier post) in its agreement with the Assyrian 'Church of the East', some sixty years after Dix wrote.

I suggest that this represents a theological method which is data-driven and has immense respect for Tradition - so that it finds it extremely repugnant to 'invalidate' a sacramental formulary which has de facto sanctified countless Christian lives for centuries. This method is in marked contrast to a theological method which works from theoretical first principles (to the time-conditioned subjectivity of which it is often blind) to a priori conclusions which may make a nonsense of historical fact. The most disastrous example of this latter method was Eugene IV's Decree for the Armenians. I think there is something rather Anglican Catholic about the data-driven approach; that it might even count as part of our Patrimony.

I suggest further that this cultural/methodological divergence is an example of what Manning had in mind when, writing to Talbot (a dodgy and theory-driven character if ever there was one) he so memorably criticised Blessed John Henry in the words "It is the old Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone transplanted into the Church". I would add to Manning's adjectives another: "historical".

It is Newman, not Manning, who has been beatified; Newman, not Manning, who is Benedict XVI's bed-time reading. Four cheers for the Old Anglican Patristic Literary Historical Oxford Method! I wonder if our Holy Father has copies of Dix?*

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*I am certainly not suggesting that all RC theologians are theory-driven and all Anglican Catholics data-driven (or even that the two methods are exclusive, or that they inevitably reach conflicting conclusions); life certainly isn't as clear-cut as that. As an example of a very data-driven Roman theologian I would offer Benedict XIV (the last Pontiff before Benedict XVI to achieve enormous distinction from his writings as a private theologian); my own excursions into this massively and historically erudite pontiff suggest to me that he also was rather an Oxford-Newman-Dix sort of chap at heart ... the sort of bloke you could easily run into lurking behind a pile of folios in Duke Humphrey ... and that he could do with some resurrecting!

8 comments:

Священник села said...

life certainly isn't as clear-cut as that

A fine motto for most would-be legislators of interpretation, and something any wise person will have in mind before making many of the assertions he may feel moved to make.

It seems to me that one of the most important elements of your praise-worthy Old Anglican Patristic Literary Historical Oxford Method is how at its best it values 'disinterested' interest in things, and by interest I mean not only a certain curiosity about things, followed through, but above all the love of subject. Data-driven is perhaps a bit too impersonal a description of this method, for surely it is animated by things like love, affection, delight, pleasure, joy. Volo ut sis rather than dance to my tune...

Fr Terry said...

Was the Decree for the Armenians simply theory driven? According to The Teaching of the Catholic Church ed G D Smith vol 2 the Armenians had already adopted the porrectio instrumentorum from the 12th century (p 1053 ref.Van Rossum )

Albertus said...

The Vatican's decision regarding the defective canon of Addai and Mari is of low rank, not dogmatically binding, and nor infallible. I believe it to be a false and harmful decision. The document explaining the decision is ludicrous in its reasoning. The was based upon the post-conciliar mottos ''OEcumenismus uber alles'', ''If it can be passed off as pastoral, then do it'', not taking into account Dogma, oecumenical catholic/orthodox consensus, Tradition, nor the fac, the the canon in question is used by schismatics of once doubtful orthodoxy. The Greater part of the members of that ''Nestorian'' Rite are united with Rome and all their eucharistic prayers do contain the words of institution. So the prinicple ''pastoral'' reason given for this decision - that it would render the reception of Communion by Catholics possible when attending a Mass with no words of Institution easier - does not stand. Pragmatism combined with false oecumenism and false pastoral good, is a remedy for faulty - but luckily reformable - decisions.

Albertus said...

CORRECTED VERSION! The Vatican's decision regarding the defective canon of Addai and Mari is of low rank, not dogmatically binding, and not infallible. I believe it to be a false and harmful decision. The document explaining the decision is ludicrous in its reasoning. It was based upon the post-conciliar mottos ''OEcumenismus uber alles'', and ''If it can be passed off as pastoral, then do it'', not taking into account Dogma, oecumenical catholic/orthodox consensus, Tradition, nor the fact, that the canon in question is used by schismatics of once doubtful orthodoxy. The Greater part of the members of that ''Nestorian'' Rite are long united with Rome and all their eucharistic prayers do contain the words of institution. So the prinicple ''pastoral'' reason given for this decision - that it would render the reception of Communion by Catholics possible when attending a Mass with no words of Institution - does not stand. Catholics of that Rite have no need to receive schismatic Communion. Pragmatism combined with false oecumenism and false pastoral welfare, is a recipe for faulty - but, luckily, reformable - decisions.

Jonathan said...

Isn't the problem in the data method that you end up with anything being validated as long as enough faithful people have done it in good conscience for long enough.

It might be claimed that methodists and presbyterians, who do use an institution narrative but don't have priests, might fall into this camp.

R. Catesby said...

Jonathan, excellent point! With that reasoning Jesus would have been wrong to throw out the money changers from the Temple. After all, they had been conducting themselves in that way for a while.

Священник села said...

Of course the data method operates within a context, and the context certainly helps shape one's thinking about what things are important, what questions might fruitfully be asked, and how any answers might fit into a larger whole. So this is not a matter of relativising or relativism, but of a certain humility - and possibly, in terms of this particular Patrimony - of irony (which may be in a curious way an expression of humility). Those who wield propositions and propositional logic and argue from first principles irrespective of things and how things appear are usually absolutely devoid of self-irony. They make great attorneys and engineers - but (as I say in pre-marriage counselling) - watch out. It's not that they're wicked or naturally bad. It's just that they're something not Patrimony that makes them so mad!

Andrew said...

Wasn't it the SRC under Pope Benedict XIV that made former Eastern schismatics who had such "institution narrative-less" anaphorae in their books correct them by adding the words of institution? Seems to me that this was the only prudent and sane choice. We know for sure that the Roman Mass (as well as all orthodox Western, Eastern and even a majority of schismatic Eastern Masses) have the words of institution. We have a few examples that do not. Something as important as the validity of Mass seems to practically demand that this change be made, regardless of theological *theories* that *might* justify such a thing as valid.

Also, we cannot trust the practices of schismatics, we can only certainly trust our own. Since these people were in schism, there was no guarantee that anything they did was valid. Most of the Eastern schismatics held on to at least bare validity, but there was never anything that would guarantee that they would other than their own adherence to what was objectively valid. Considering the concepts of EENS and the fewness of those who will be saved, who is to say that an at least very seemly invalid anaphora sanctified anyone? The Lord lets it rain on both the just and the wicked. Just because no extremely obvious bad temporal effects came about does not mean their liturgies were in any way efficacious.