31 January 2011

Pastor in valle Adurni ...

... has written, on his blog (the only criticism of which I can make is that his sabbatical prevents him from writing as often as one would wish), a very thought-provoking comment on my piece in re Liverpudlitana (incidentally, while I simply adore the coinage Hepatopolis, offered by a learned correspondent, it is a fact that Vatican documents from the dear old SCR used to latinise the Venice of the North as Liverpudlia). Let me take up and run with one point that Pastor makes: a preference for Bishops administering the Sacrament of Confirmation.

This is very Anglican. In the days when Christianity was an urban phenomenon, a thing of the polis, and pagani were by definition pagans, bishops did perform the unsundered initiatory process of Water-Baptism+Confirmation+First Communion. When Christianity spread into the countryside, this became impracticable and the East responded by keeping the Rite undivided and committing it to presbyters; the West retained the involvement of the Bishop, the par excellence Apostolic Minister, but divided the Rite. Dix used to point out that there were advantages and disadvantages in each choice.

Anglicanism has been the most determined tradition in confining Confirmation to Bishops. In the East, the parish priest regularly chrismates; in the Roman Communion there are many circumstances in which the Sacrament is delegated to presbyters. But in Anglicanism, the absolutist restriction of Confirmation to bishops has led to a deplorable corruption: the multiplication of Bishops as confirming machines who are rewarded for their drudgery by Status and the hope dangled before them of a diocese. That is why we have so many Anglican bishops: for example, in the area of the RC diocese of Plymouth, which, I think, has one bishop, the C of E has two and a half diocesans and four 'suffragans' (which in Anglican terminology means a bishop with delegated jurisdiction who serves a Diocesan). This is driven mainly by the need to have Confirmers. It means, of course, Mitres for the Boys ... well, soon, I suppose, for the Girls as well. I gather that this 'Area Bishop' corruption is becoming increasingly common, too, in Roman Catholicism; that bright young men become Westminster Area Bishops and, having Shown Their Quality, have their names put at the top of the Nuncio's ternas.
I will follow this with an analysis of the corruptions inherent in the modern practice of Episcopacy among Anglicans and Roman Catholics.

14 comments:

Joshua said...

I recall such Anglican suffragans being referred to as "confirmation stooges".

Joshua said...

But what of the chorbishops / chorepiscopoi ?

Were they not the equivalent of area bishops (if not vicars forane) in the Primitive Church?

Rhiannon said...

Perhaps the Anglican Church could consider the solution arrived at in some Catholic dioceses, whereby the Diocesan confirms as part of his Visitation - at other times, Confirmation is delegated to the parish priest who has supervised the candidates' preparation?

fieldofdreams2010 said...

Where there is chrismation, the link with the Bishop is clear; but since the Anglican rite does not include chrismation (at least, not until very recently), the restriction of the rite to Bishops makes some sort of sense. But it still does not address the question of what Confirmation, as a rite separate from Baptism, actually does. My instinct is to say that while Baptism confers membership of the Church Universal, Confirmation has to do with membership of the particular church, and via the Bishop with all particular churches in communion with him. This would make sense of chrismation as a rite of reception into communion.

Священник села said...

the question of what Confirmation, as a rite separate from Baptism, actually does

The usual catechesis in Orthodox churches is that baptism is our personal (intimate, liturgical, sacramental) means of participation in the death and resurrection of the Lord, and chrismation our personal (intimate, liturgical, sacramental) participation in Pentecost.

That the holy chrism is confected by the holy synod of the local Church and distributed by the ruling bishop, even though administered by the parish priest, sets the one baptised and chrismated explicitly within the Big Picture of a community constituted by the power of the Holy Spirit and his apostolic hierophants.

Father Anonymous said...

Hepatopolis! Surely there is a way to make that one stick.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Here in Boston, Mass., our Archbishop typically has 4 to 5 auxiliaries; "regional" bishops for South, West, North and Central, and often one as chancellor or some sort of vicar. All the harder to understand, since each of the regions has at least one city (and most more than one) of more than 100,000 souls, a near majority of which are at least nominally Catholic.
Why each of these cities doesn't constitute the center of a diocese is a mystery to me. Boston would continue as an Archdiocese, and its Archbishop as Metropolitan (as happened when Worcester, Springfield and Fall River were carved out as dioceses within our Commonwealth). I suspect, however, that the desire for central adminstration of things like Catholic Charities, Schools and Tribunal keep things this way.
It would certainly be a more "catholic" arrangement to let the Archdiocese handle those things, but constitute the regional bishops as diocesans; perhaps the bishops might have a chance to really get to know and pastor their presbyters and deacons?

Joseph Shaw said...

Area bishops: I understand that this was a pet project of Basil Hume in Westminster and his successor was told to do away with it. You don't see references to area bishops in Westminster any more. Auxiliaries are just auxiliaries.

The situation in the Archdiocese of Birmingham remains a bit ambiguous. But as a whole the phenonemon is on the way out, not in. It doesn't correspond to anything in Canon Law and so at best is an adminstrative fiction.

Albertus said...

The Eastern Orthodox indeed preferred not to divide the Sacraments of Baptism, Chrismation and First Communion of infants, allowing priests to confirm. BUT the link with the Bishop remians, as the chrism must be consecrated by the Bishop. In the Roman Catholic Church, until recently, only Bishops could licitly confirm. Simple Priests could licitly confirm only in articulo mortis, or in some missionary areas, if i do not err. I was confirmed by a Bishop, Deo gratias. I find it a great loss, that nowadays priests are allowed to confirm at the ''Easter Vigil''. In this diocese, preists regularly confirm, with permission of the Ordianry. But what then is left of the link between Bishop and Faithful? Most faithful ever saw their Bishop only at their Confirmation! Now they don't see him ever. The solution would be to create smaller bishoprics, as of old, so that, as others have said, the Bishop might be a true Father and Shepherd to his clergy and lay faithful. Perhaps such an Ordinary Bishop or His auxiliary can then baptise, confirm and commune all the faithful, as in the ancient Church. Otherwise, if eight-year olds will be first confirmed and then communed, let the Ordinary Bishop or one of His Auxiliaries do that, leaving solemn Baptism to the local parish priest or deacon. With a bit of good will, this is surely possible.

Figulus said...

I too have often felt that our dioceses are too big. Perhaps it is time for dioceses and archdioceses besides Rome to have suburbicarian sees, whose ordinaries might be elected by the provincial synod and approved and ordained by the metropolitan archbishop. This would have the advantage of making a sort of "minor league" of suburbicarian bishops which would provide a pool from which Rome could draw "major league" diocesan bishops and archbishops.

Just a thought.

The east once had (and still has, but only in a vestigial form) dioceses surrounding their eparchies. The link between the diocese and the eparchy was much closer than the link between the eparchy and its archeparchy. The eastern archeparchy is a near equivalent to the western archdiocese, and the eastern eparchy is a near equivalent to the western diocese. There is no western equivalent to the eastern diocese, unless you count Rome's suburbicarian sees. I'm not a big fan of adopting eastern ideas in the west, whatever the liturgical reformers may think, but I think a more traditional case could be made for expanding the Roman practice, now that cities of 1000000+ souls are so common here.

Fr Timothy Matkin said...

Ahhh, to be a confirmation stooge.

Andrew said...

In my area of the U.S., we regularly have the retired abbots of a local monastery confirm, as well as a bishop who came back to his former (as a priest) diocese after he retired. I think the reason they do is for the miter. It may not be the ideal, but people like the pontificals. The confirmer might not be the diocesan bishop, but he looks like it and for most people that is good enough.

Woody said...

The task of confirming converst, such as I was 20 years ago, has been delegated here in Houston to the local pastor. There was a kind of non-mandatory follow up service with the bishop. I did cover my bases, however, a couple of years later with confirmation sub conditione administered (complete with vigorous slap on the cheek) by H.E. Richard Williamson, who preached one of his patented stem- winding jeremiads against women wearing pants. Those were the days!

B flat said...

Please, on no account look to the Orthodox Church for the type of Christian episcopal organisation. The Russians and the Greeks use the same terminology of Archbishop and Metropolitan, with entirely different meanings as regards jurisdiction.
The Russian name for an Auxiliary is "vicar bishop" which conveys the sense of "substitute for the Bishop" quite well.
Just last year, ignorant misuse of terminology in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese in North America, resulted in the humiliation and departure of one diocesan Bishop who found that diocese was reinterpreted to mean area of supervision by an auxiliary bishop totally subject to the metropolitan's control. These examples show how dependent we are on definite precision of language to communicate meaning at every level of our lives.
To descend from the exalted heights of ecclesiastical oversight, it is worth reminding lovers of american usage, that in England, pants is normally used of undergarments. I doubt a Wykehamist would normally use the word in the way Woody relates. However, perhaps on that occasion, the bishop was sensitive to his audience's usages, and adapted his vocabulary accordingly.