Fr Benedict Kiely—The sad demise of the Anglican Church: One Man’s Journey

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Classic Anglicanism always described itself as a "via media," a "middle way" between the Protestantism of Geneva and the Catholicism of Rome. Anglicans claimed to be the authentic Catholic Church of England, that little dispute in the 16th century over papal supremacy being merely an "unfortunate incident" - so very English and polite. Sadly, the "via media" proved to be untrue for some of the greatest minds the Anglican Church ever produced, and a succession of brilliant converts - Newman, Chesterton, Knox, Benson and Muggeridge, to name but a few - found that the true Catholic Church of England was the Church the martyrs died for, in union with Peter.

However, even until comparatively recently, while the Anglican Church held to the ancient creeds of the Church, the possibility of eventual union with Rome could still be prayed for, and worked towards.

All that is now, tragically, a thing of the past; we have all seen on our television screens the implosion of the Anglican Communion over its abandonment of the traditional morality of Christendom for the
last two thousand years.

The Anglican Church is now completely divided - split here in the United States into at least three distinct groups. Large groups of the Anglican Church in Africa will have no contact whatsoever with the Episcopal Church in America.

First with its unilateral decision to ordain women and then with the consecration of an openly homosexual man as a bishop, the U.S. Episcopal Church signaled that the "via media" was over, and the Anglican Church had decided to join the mainstream of other Protestant churches who were rejecting the consistent witness of Scripture and tradition over ordination and sexual morality for the "zeitgeist" of contemporary culture, whatever it may be.

Read it all (page 16)

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic

33 Comments
Posted December 2, 2009 at 11:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Marcus Pius wrote:

“However, even until comparatively recently, while the Anglican Church held to the ancient creeds of the Church, the possibility of eventual union with Rome could still be prayed for, and worked towards.”

This is still the case, though. Making it sound as if the creeds have been abandoned is ridiculous. Women and gay people are never mentioned in any of the creeds: some lunatic conservatives elevating second-order issues to being communion-breakers is the cause of all the trouble. Really, one gets fed up with the utter lack of proportion shown in articles such as this.

Heresy is holding heterodox views of credally defined doctrine. Believing that women should be valid matter for ordination or that gay people in long-term loving relationships deserve affirmation is nothing like, say, Nestorianism, Apollinarianism (or even Iconoclasm, which many otherwise conservative Evangelicals and post-Vatican II RCs have embraced enthusiastically) really, is it?

December 2, 12:51 pm | [comment link]
2. DavidBennett wrote:

Catholic Christianity (whether defined by the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, or Anglo-Catholic Anglicans) is more than just believing in the creeds.

The Church, East and West, has always emphasized the importance of morality, for both its members and its clergy. I would argue that the early, ante-Nicene, Church had stronger and more uniform moral standards than doctrinal ones. Even though individual Christian and Christian leaders have not always lived up to such standards, these standards have existed. It seems to me to be a modern, liberal, Protestant concept that one can divide faith from morality, or faith from order. Who can validly celebrate Mass, and what sexual relationships are proper, are not “second order” issues to Catholic Christians, because what we do with our bodies affects our souls (since we live in the material world). Catholic Christianity has always recognized this, against Manichaeism, Docetism, etc.

December 2, 1:09 pm | [comment link]
3. Hakkatan wrote:

Fr Mark, it is easy to “stay within the Creeds” if you redefine them so that they are not understood as their framers intended.  When I was an Episcopal priest, I found that most of my colleagues were modalists, not full-fledged trinitarians.  Bp Schori denies the creeds when she says that Jesus is merely “a way” and not THE way to the Father.

Errors in secondary issues are often results of errors in foundational matters.  When the Bible is taken to be human reflection on spiritual experience, rather than given by God through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, all manner of foolishness can and does result.

December 2, 1:36 pm | [comment link]
4. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Very well said DavidBennet.
We have bodies for a reason.  And a very important part of that reason is so that we may glorify God.  Every physical act has the potential of glorifying or profaning the God who created us.  Some acts of course will be neutral. 

But there is never anything neutral about any sexual act.  And sex is more than just the union of two bodies in search of mutual pleasure and support.  It speaks to our very relationship with our Creator.  It is a reflection on the Trinitarian nature of God.  And as such is very much a first order issue.

December 2, 2:01 pm | [comment link]
5. Daniel Muth wrote:

I’m inclined to concur with Fr. Mark insofar as determination of women as proper recipients of ordination into the Apostolic Succession is a secondary issue and therefore see no reason why TEC and other bodies who hold this position should have any difficulty suspending WO until unity is established and an Ecumenical Council can pronounce on the practice - likely a matter of but a couple of centuries or so I should think.  Assuming a decision favorable to WO advocates, the practice could go on in an undivided Church without being subject to much in the way of reasonable opposition. 

Matters are is a good deal more complicated with regard to same-sex imitations of marriage.  Both the consistent witness of sacred scripture and the unbroken teaching of the Church (here is a rare position that unquestionably meets the strict standard of the Vincentian Canon) hold against any such notion.  While many claims are made in this regard, no new actual knowledge about the human person, human sexuality, human identity, or so-called “sexual orientation” has been produced such as would obviate this consistent understanding.  The insistence of some tiny portions of the Church Catholic on implementing innovations with such a dubious pedigree calls into question the commitment of the innovators to creedal orthodoxy.  And indeed, it takes very little scratching of the surface of this movement to uncover Pelagian assumptions about human goodness, Marcionite attitudes toward Hebrew scripture, Montanist claims of a new revelation, and a Gnostic tendency to ground theology in unexamined secular superstitions.  Once again, it would be best if those who favor this unquestionably unnecessary innovation to hold off until an Ecumenical Council can definitively pronounce on the matter and this will not occur until the scandalous division of the Church Catholic is overcome.  As always, impatience is not a virtue.

December 2, 2:06 pm | [comment link]
6. phil swain wrote:

Fr. Mark, how can the issue of the validity of matter in the sacraments not be a communion breaking issue?  Wouldn’t you agree that if you were not baptised with water then you would not be in ecclesial communion with Christians who believe that water is valid matter for baptism?

December 2, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
7. Ralph wrote:

From a functional standpoint, a heresy is an idea or teaching that interferes with salvation. Homosexual practice defiles a person before God. Affirming homosexual practice is a radical departure from the clear teachings of Scripture and tradition. Not one of the modern patriarchs has affirmed homosexual practice.

The “official” stance of the Anglican Communion is that “in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage,” and rejects “homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture.”

As far as I know, not one of the Anglican bodies, including TEC, has made a doctrinal statement that homosexual practice is not a sin.

This is indeed a first-order issue.

December 2, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
8. Todd Granger wrote:

Well put, Daniel Muth (#5)!

December 2, 2:42 pm | [comment link]
9. evan miller wrote:

Mark,

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving and all the best for a merry Christmas and happy New Year.

Your lunatic conservative friend.

December 2, 2:59 pm | [comment link]
10. advocate wrote:

Fr. Mark, whether one is capable of celebrating the Eucharist is a first order issue, certainly to RCs and the Orthodox. Whether future ordinations of priests and deacons are valid due to the fundamental capability of the bishop doing the ordaining is a fundamental, first order issue. The entire sacramental system depends on whether one’s priests are actually doing what they claim they are doing - or else we are simply having a not-so-nice picnic of wafers and bad wine with a bunch of our fellow believers. Start messing with the validity of ordinations, and yes, you have a rather profound first order issue at stake.

December 2, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
11. evan miller wrote:

Advocate is spot on.  For those of us with a high view of the sacraments, it’s very much a first order issue.  I used to go on occassion to an Anglican church in a neighboring town since they offer a Rite I service, which I love.  Alas, they ordained their two female deacons (both fine folks) to the “priesthood” and now attending there is no long an option unless I can resign myself to being deprived of the sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood, or unless I can ascertain beforehand that the rector (male) will be celebrating.

December 2, 3:56 pm | [comment link]
12. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

1. Fr Mark wrote: Women and gay people are never mentioned in any of the creeds: some lunatic conservatives elevating second-order issues to being communion-breakers is the cause of all the trouble.

Well, let’s see if we can identify these lunatics. Their number surely does not include Rowan Douglas Williams, as his sanity is clearly demonstrated by his identification of “second-order” issues as non-communion breaking. I believe it may fairly be adjudged that women priests was one of his “second-order” issues, and quite possibly women as bishops also, since his province is currently considering the consecration of the same. Affirmation of gay lifestyles may also have been on his mind, but that cannot be proven and would contradict his affirmation of Lambeth 1.10.

1. Let us take the first of these three “second-order” issues: women as priests. It may fairly be alleged that this is not a communion-breaking issue, since the provinces of the Anglican Communion have remained in communion with one another in spite of the fact that a number of them do in fact ordain women to the priesthood. Notwithstanding the inter-provincial communion with one another, there are some provinces that do not recognize the ministry of women as priests.

Anglicans are not in communion with Rome, nor with the Orthodox churches, so it is problematic in identifying any issue as communion-breaking with them. So where will we find the lunatics that raise this “second-order” issue to the level of being communion-breaking? Well, of course, it must be that they may be found among the Continuing Churches and other fringe groups that have broken communion with the Church of England (CoE), the Anglican Church of Australia, and the self-styled “The Episcopal Church” (TEC) Foremost among these lunatics would be the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) and the Anglican Church in America (ACA).

There is one problematic aspect with this identification, however, in that the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) has invited these specific groups to come into communion with itself by setting up special ordinariates. This would have to be explained by either an inability of the RCC to identify lunacy, or perhaps by an element of lunacy within the RCC itself, which would have to extend to the highest levels.

2. The second “second-order” issue would be that of women as bishops. Since the Global South did not appear to break communion with TEC over the elevation of a woman to the position of Presiding Bishop, perhaps this is indeed a second-order issue. However, I do not recall an occasion on which these outspoken primates took communion at the same table with Katharine Jefferts Schori. I will leave the sanity status of these primates undecided on this issue for now.

But clearly, all those who were found to be lunatics because of the issue of women priests would also fall into the same category because of their stand on women as priests. In addition, there are elements within TEC and the UK and Australia that are threatening to break communion with their respective churches over factors surrounding women as bishops. This would enable us to add to the number of identifiable lunatics at least those who are affiliated with Forward in Faith (FIF). And again, the stances taken by the RCC and the Orthodox definitely put them under suspicion, but since no existing communions are being broken I will pass over these groups.

3. The third “second-order” issue, according to Fr. Mark, is “gay people,” although I will pass over that and consider only their actions and not their ontology. Here we clearly have the Global South primates breaking communion with TEC over the issue of affirmation of gay lifestyles, specifically by ordaining practicing homosexuals to holy orders or by blessing same-sex unions. Based on the criteria offered by Fr. Mark, we must number at least Peter Jasper Akinola and Henry Luke Orombi among the lunatics.

I noted above that a certain primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion has (on more than one occasion) affirmed the teaching of Lambeth 1.10. In addition to that, this same person refused permission for a certain Simple Country Bishop to attend the communion-defining Lambeth gathering of bishops. By thus breaking communion with a self-identified homosexual, who was a bishop at that, I am afraid that we must number Rowan Douglas Williams among the lunatics as defined by Fr. Mark.

One question remains on my mind: since lunacy is seldom cured by argumentative discourse, one must wonder what keeps Fr. Mark involved in these interminable useless discussions.

December 2, 4:24 pm | [comment link]
13. Marcus Pius wrote:

Well, that impeccably “orthodox” Archbishop of Sydney certainly doesn’t think that who is valid matter for ordination is a first order principle, as he (and his chums in his diocese) are in favour of lay celebration. On that point, I am much more conservative that Dr Jensen.

DavidBennet “It seems to me to be a modern, liberal, Protestant concept that one can divide faith from morality, or faith from order.”

Well, not quite. The Catholic Church in Europe has always harboured dodgy characters amongst its clergy - the Irish abuse cases being in everyone’s mind at the moment - but such things have always been seen as very minor by the hierarchy (which is why they are so out of kilter with the judgment currently being poured upon them by the secular society there, which can’t understand their way of thinking). I always found it odd that King Louis XIV of France went to Mass every day, and confession more than once a week, and was regarded as an exemplary Catholic monarch, while at the same time siring a whole brood of illegitimate children and publicly flaunting his mistresses. He was the norm, rather than the exception, for the Catholic ruling classes on the continent right up to our own time - the current Catholic kings of Spain and Belgium being contemporary examples not so different, and the current practising Catholic presidents of France and Italy on their second (or third?) wives at the moment. Christianity in Europe has a far more complex and subtle history than many current “conservatives” show any cognisance of.

December 2, 4:48 pm | [comment link]
14. driver8 wrote:

I do think that’s right. If they are second order issues (that is, not essential to the Gospel) then we can put them on hold without worrying that we are denying anything very significant about the christian faith.

December 2, 5:10 pm | [comment link]
15. Phil wrote:

Now wait a minute, Fr Mark.  There is a difference between “harbour[ing] dodgy characters” and teaching positively that it is holy and blessed to be dodgy, or sire a whole brood of illegitimate children or have a mistress in the first place.  But I’m certain you understand the distinction, even if you hand-wave to obscure it.

December 2, 5:25 pm | [comment link]
16. RMBruton wrote:

•Father Benedict Kiely is pastor of Blessed
Sacrament Parish in Stowe and St. John
the Apostle Parish in Johnson, director of
Continuing Education for Clergy for the
Diocese of Burlington, and Burlington
Police Department chaplain. Father Kiely
regrets that he is unable to enter into personal
correspondence with readers.

I must have missed Fr. Kiely’s article on the developing situation in the Irish Republic?

December 2, 5:45 pm | [comment link]
17. JustOneVoice wrote:

Something is a second-order issue for a group only if all parties in the group agree it is a second-order issue.  If one party thinks something is a second-order issue and the other party thinks it is a first-order issue, then it is a first-order issue, or the group is split.  Since the RC, EO, WO and many Protestants consider homosexuallity it is a first-order issue for anyone wanting to be considered in the same group with them.  Mark, by declaring homosexuality a second-order issues,  you have separated yourself from all those who think it is a first order issue and that is a very large group of Christians.

December 2, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
18. Paula Loughlin wrote:

I am not sure how the horrible situation in Ireland pertains to determining if the ordination of women and non celibate homosexuals is a second or first order issue.

December 2, 6:13 pm | [comment link]
19. Paula Loughlin wrote:

The article in question comes from the August 2008 issue of Vermont Catholic.  Shame on Father Kiely for not knowing of the planned report. 

Of course if he has not written on the current publication of the Ryan and/or Murphy Report we must conclude he supports the abuse of minors by RCC clergy and any subsequent coverups of such criminal behavior.  I am grateful you are able to ferret out this nefarious enabler of child abuse and expose him for his true sinister intent and behavior.

December 2, 6:22 pm | [comment link]
20. JustOneVoice wrote:

I am not sure how the horrible situation in Ireland pertains to determining if the ordination of women and non celibate homosexuals is a second or first order issue.

Some seem to think that if they point out that there are sinners and corruption in a churches, then any thing that church claims can be dismissed.  It is such a weak argument, it is hardly worth the effort to rebut.

December 2, 6:29 pm | [comment link]
21. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

I don’t find the tone of this article offensive.  It’s not gloating or haughty.  The author seems genuinely grateful for his Anglican training, as Newman likewise continued to be to his dying day.

However, I think it’s premature to write off Anglicanism as if it is forever condemned to be cast into the outer darkness because of the way much of its leadership in the Global North has betrayed the authentic Christian faith (and Anglican way) and will never again be fit for ecumenical relations that might lead to some form of reunion.  After all, there is such a thing as repentance. 

And to blame our current troubles on the lusts of old King Henry VIII is entertaining, but it’s really a cheap shot.

Still, I judge the article to be more of a lament than a put down.  Perhaps like David’s lament over King Saul’s demise, “How are the mighty fallen!”  Yes, the western branches of Anglicanism are in a frightful state of demise, of theological rot and moral decay.  But unlike individuals, churches have the chance to reverse the process that leads to death.  Through repentance and a return to faith and obedience.

And that’s what the ACNA represents, the beginnings of such a return to faith and obedience.  I remain hopeful that, as Mark Twain once quipped, the reports of our demise may be premature.

David handy+

December 2, 7:09 pm | [comment link]
22. DavidBennett wrote:

Now wait a minute, Fr Mark.  There is a difference between “harbour[ing] dodgy characters” and teaching positively that it is holy and blessed to be dodgy, or sire a whole brood of illegitimate children or have a mistress in the first place.  But I’m certain you understand the distinction, even if you hand-wave to obscure it.

Phil got what I was saying. I admitted in my comment that many Church leaders have *not* lived up to standards of holiness, and like Fr. Mark mentioned, there have been times that standards have been rather lax (I certainly am not about to become a revisionist historian and claim that every pope, bishop, or Catholic monarch was holy). However, despite the failings to live up to said standards, neither the Catholic nor Orthodox Churches have come out and said such behavior is holy or part of Christian morality.

December 2, 7:16 pm | [comment link]
23. Larry Morse wrote:

#21, Not David of Saul, butI think rather of Ozymandius, whose legs of stone stand, trunkless, in a great desert. Such is TEC. Human vanity is never sufficient competition for time and the blowing sand. Larry

December 3, 12:40 am | [comment link]
24. Fr. J. wrote:

2. David Bennett. 

Beautifully well said.  Such values as chastity and even virginity were well espoused in the early church long before there was a creed, ca 325 a.d., or a canon of scripture, ca 392 a.d.  The life of the Christian Church was in full flourish without either of those two aids.  Rather, the practice and teachings of the apostles were handed down by preaching and myriad texts and primitive rituals.  But, the content of that teaching and practice were remarkably clear on matters such as sexual morality and who served as presbyter-bishops. 

I would not call either the canon or creed secondary, but they not prior to essential Christian sexual morality or the proper transmission of apostolic authority.

December 3, 12:57 am | [comment link]
25. Todd Granger wrote:

One notes that Fr Mark didn’t address Daniel Muth’s excellent points in his haste to disparage “lunatic conservatives”.

And no, Fr Mark, some of us “lunatic conservatives” don’t consider the Archbishop of Sydney to be impeccably orthodox, not least because of his stance on lay celebration of the Eucharist - which, one observes from a catholic standpoint, is an oxymoron and an impossibility.

December 3, 3:29 am | [comment link]
26. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

All the sacraments which God gifted to his church, with the exception of marriage, necessitate those in holy orders. THat makes it very much a first order issue to me- maybe THE most important. Because if God did NOT call women to sacramental ministry then they are not able to perform their duties and render the whole ministry of the church a sham….. how is that second order?

Take Mass for example, if I cannot be 100% certain that a woman is a valid priest- how can I be 100% certain that my communion is valid or the sacrament authentic. HUGE HUGE problem for any Catholic minded Christian

December 3, 7:29 am | [comment link]
27. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

#26 - Just to play the advocate here, and assuming there are no female bishops:
1: Although the sacraments may be a sham where there is a female priest, this does not invalidate the sacraments where there is a male priest. Therefore, while wounded, the whole Church has not become a sham.
2: You live in the UK, so although it may be an inconvenience, you are able to seek out and find a male priest from whom to take the sacrament of the Eucharist.
3: Your eternal salvation does not depend on your receiving the Eucharist, nor on being baptised by a validly ordained person.

December 3, 7:53 am | [comment link]
28. DavidBennett wrote:

I guess another question I have is that if women’s ordination and affirming same-sex relationships are secondary issues, then why are so many progressives willing to bend canons (as when the first women were ordained in TEC), defiantly protest the former status quo, and essentially demand full acceptance of their views? After all, they are only secondary issues…why the bother?

It seems to me that to many progressives, these are most certainly first-order issues, and worth every effort to get them accepted. In fact some progressives I know seem concerned only with these issues, and outdo conservatives in their level of stridency. These issues only became “secondary” after conservatives began to express an equal amount of outrage and protest *against* them. If progressives angrily stand up for something strongly, it is okay because it is a “justice issue”; when conservatives do it they are lunatics.

By the way, I am not trying to be difficult here, just pointing out that both sides seem equally passionate about these issues. Let’s see what would happen if TEC rescinded women’s ordination…I think you would find that for most, the issue would hardly be secondary. The only ones who view these issues as secondary are the few remaining moderates and old-fashioned latitudinarians.

December 3, 9:36 am | [comment link]
29. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

Br’er Rabbit, once women are consecrated then NO I cannot simply accept male priests. I would need to know WHO ordained them, for if it was a woman this once again throws doubt into the arena. You start to see how messy and painful it becomes.

December 3, 9:40 am | [comment link]
30. rugbyplayingpriest wrote:

Finally just ask yourselves how much DAMAGE WO has caused THEN tell me it is not first order!

December 3, 9:41 am | [comment link]
31. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

rugbyplayingpriest (#29) Please re-read my comment:

assuming there are no female bishops.

Yes, I agree that women as bishops destroys the trustworthiness of communion and inter-communion for sacramentalists, and I am unwilling to claim that sacramentalists are completely mistaken.

I serve as deacon in a communion where women may be ordained deacon or priest on a diocese-by-diocese basis. However, the council of archbishops that governs my communion has covenanted that no women will ever be consecrated as bishops. Therefore one might say that the bishops and archbishops of my communion have concluded that ordaining women is second-order while consecrating women as bishops is a first-order issue.

All the bishops in my communion are in apostolic succession through multiple documented lines, many of them through Samuel Seabury and some through those Anglican bishops in India that refused to go along with the formation of the “united church” in India and formed their own Continuing Church.

My own bishop will ordain women as deacons but not as priests. There are three priests ordained in my missionary diocese centered in Pennsylvania. Would you be unwilling to receive the Eucharist from one of them, since my communion has a woman who is acting as a priest in a diocese centered in Florida?

December 3, 11:00 am | [comment link]
32. JustOneVoice wrote:

Is a “first-order” issue one which is church splitting or one that puts one’s salvation in jeopardy?  I thought it is one that is church splitting, but they way it is discussed here sound like it could be the other.  I realize the two definitions have much in common, but to me there is a difference.

December 3, 11:14 am | [comment link]
33. Br_er Rabbit wrote:

JustOneVoice, you are correct. Rather than two definitions, it is actually two different subjects entirely, with one having a bearing on the other. Since Christianity without salvation is meaningless, those things that are “first-order” salvation issues must also be “first-order” ecclesiastical issues.

The person who gave us the gift of “second order” rhetoric for current discussion is none other than +++Rowan Williams, in his speech in Rome. His subject there, ostensibly, was ecumenism—meaning the issues that separate Anglicans from Romans.

For most Anglicans, the issue that is much more urgent than what might keep us separate from Rome is what will soon separate us from one another—or those things that have already separated many of us over the last half century or so.

December 3, 2:02 pm | [comment link]
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