08 June 2011

Obstinacy in Anglicanism


There is an unfortunate problem within Anglicanism, and that is persistent obstinacy. It does no one any good, and unfortunately very few seem willing to do anything about it.

This evening I was reading a condensed version of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Benedictines are certainly interested in maintaining obedience and discipline. Saint Benedict encouraged the use of criticism and rebuke, excommunication, and even corporal punishment for those who did not humbly follow the rule. Now, a monastic community is certainly far more disciplined than those of us who live outside the cloister. However, there is a point to be taken from the illustrious Founder of the Benedictines. Obedience is important for Christians, and continued obstinacy is detrimental to spiritual growth. We are all called to obedience within Christ's Church.

Usually this obstinacy originates from protestant forces so often alive and well within Anglican communities. Sometimes clergy are called to task by low church protestants for upholding or promoting Catholic doctrine. The parishioners think they can moderate the speech and writing of their clergy. Unfortunately the clergy often seems more interested in placating them so they do not lose their congregation than fulfilling their obligations as clergy. Bishops and parish priests have a duty to correct those in their flock. They should correct with kindness and love with a mind towards improvement, always mindful of their own condition. Yet, after a few attempts at gentle correction, more stern measures are required. Public rebuke may be necessary, as may censure, interdict, and even excommunication. And, if the parishioner does not like your correction, they are free to leave. They will no doubt find a modernist parish that will indulge their ways.

And what of the fear that a priest might lose his congregation? I ask, what is worse? To have your obstinate parishioners leave, perhaps even causing you to lose your church building, or to fail in your duty to the souls of the flock? The answer is obvious. Any priest who is more worried about not offending others is simply not doing his job and ought to be removed from parochial responsibility.

This problem is not simply limited to the laity, however. Even clergy sometimes become poisoned with obstinacy and disrespect. Priests and sometimes even bishops lead their flock into schism over the most selfish of reasons. A Catholic, even an Anglican one, cannot be a Catholic if he is completely "independent." There may be forms of independence that certain jurisdictions have, such as the See of Utrecht as one example, but true Catholics must seek unity in whatever form is possible. Priests and Bishops who value indulging their own interests more than the most worthy goal of Christian unity are unworthy of the trust they have been given.

Let us all seek to place the wisdom of Christ's Church above our own wisdom. Let us all seek to place unity above selfish interests. Let us all seek to place the love and service of God above all things. Let all clergy do their duty and love their flock, even when that love must be tough love.