Friday, May 12, 2006

St. Wilfred of York

St. Wilfred of York (pictured at left) is one of the truly outstanding saints of Northumbria. Along with St. Hilda of Whitby he personifies the ancient Celtic Church as described by the Venerable Bede.

He and St. Hilda were on opposite sides of the debate that took place at the synod of Whitby that met to decide what the relationship was to be between the native Celtic Church and the Roman one. Hilda held out for continued independence from Rome while Wilfrid argued for entering into communion with the pope. They agreed completely however in their love of the Celtic Church and the true Gospel.

The compromise that was reached at Whitby was that England would be a dual primacy with the archbishop of Canterbury representing the interests of the pope, and the archbishop of York representing the interests of the native Celtic Church. Wilfrid was chosen to be the first archbishop of York under this arrangement. However it was not long in coming that Wilfrid had to go to Rome to appeal the attempted diminuation of his authority.

The arrangement of dual primacy was preserved until the Norman invasion, sanctioned by the Pope, after which the Duke of Normandy replaced all of the native bishops save one with imported Frankish bishops thus ending by military force the legal arrangement of being in communion with, but not under the direct supervision of the Roman Pontiff.

The See of Rome has through the centuries increased its claims to supremacy. At first claiming authority through Peter and bestowing such titles to the papacy that contained the name of that apostle such as "Throne, or Chair of Peter", "Barque of Peter" etc. But as the centuries passed and the wider Church came to understand that the true head of the Church is Christ, the titles began to change as well. "Vicar of Christ on Earth" was the ultimate appellation self awarded to the office of the pope.

This tactic continues to this day with our new Pope Benedict XVI (I do consider him our Pope even if we are not in communion) jettisoning the title of "Patriarch of the West." This is almost certainly a move designed to set the bishop of Rome apart from the other patriarchs of the ancient Christian Church.

The question of papal authority is the central sticking point in the reunion of orthodox Christendom. The unique claims of the papacy have always been suspect, and like St. Wilfrid and St. Hilda we need to be cautious if and when we enter into arrangements with the Vatican.

The Anglican Use Roman Catholics, for example, have realized too late that there is no mechanism for them to maintain a married clergy except by conversion of already married Anglican clerics. This is why they are desperate to bring over the Continuing Churches to Rome in hope that an Anglican Rite may be created and the deal they have struck with the Roman Church modified. The Anglican Use chapels are slated for absorption into the Roman Communion, destined ultimately to disappear altogether.

Additionally the American, English, Dutch , and German branches of the Roman Catholic Church are hungering and thirsting to go down the same road as the Episcopal Church. In my on line debates with Anglican Use and other Roman Catholics they cannot deny the examples of heresy and apostasy manifested by the Roman Church, they can only claim that they are isolated incidents and the "situation is improving" without citing statistics or trends and certainly not any papal disciplinary actions against the offenders. They are whistling past the graveyard.

So what is the point of this essay? The point is that the Anglican Catholic Church may come to be one of the last repositories of orthodoxy on the planet. That unless the ecumenism we all desire is a positive one, it might kill us. Let us all ask St. Hilda and St. Wilfred to pray that Christ's Church be one in truth and orthodoxy, and that all phony ecumenical efforts be rejected. Heresy is worse than schism.


Judy W. said...

Help me put this in historical context: what is the date of the synod of Whitby?

Fr. John said...

Around the year A.D. 664


man, these are cool people! love the icon thing. i've been doing meditation for the DivIne Light..what is the Angelican/Catholic way to the Godhead?

Fr. John said...

You can start with the "Jesus Prayer." "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

Have you read "The Way of a Pilgrim?"

Have you reached the light yet?

Beware of Zen sickness!

Chanting mantras without divine protection can be risky!

An Anglican Cleric said...

Excellent essay! I find it ironic that the Anglican Use liturgy, while being more "Catholic" than the modern Roman Rite can be taken away at any time. . .indeed it was always viewed a a stop gap measure for incorporating Anglicans into the Roman Communion. In time these Anglican Rite RC parishes will lose their married clergy and their cherished liturgy. It should make Anglican Catholics mindful of the great heritage of Western Christendom they have in their possession.

John said...

I appreciate the information provided and ask that you continue to update us on the relationships being developed by the ACC with other orthodox churches.

John said...

I appreciate the information imparted on the ACC and other orthodox entities and ask that you keep us updated on developments.

jmahar said...

I also enjoyed this essay. I am new to the Anglican Communion, and find that I am doing extra to try to keep up with what is being said and done in the US and elsewhere. Thanks for new information.

The young fogey said...

I still don't know what to make of Pope Benedict dropping 'Patriarch of the West', an historic title the Orthodox have no problem with. It may be as some suggest a further exaltation of the papal office... or as others suggest he may have in mind several patriarchates of the West, not just honorary ones like Lisbon, a kind of polity amenable to Anglicans and Orthodox. But why change tradition? The West has had only one real patriarch for centuries.

The Anglican Use in the RC Church, as it is now, is a bait-and-switch as you realise.

English Catholic said...

I disagree with all of you. The new personal ordinariates will retain Anglican Tradition, while seeking valid orders and full communion with the Catholic Church. The Pope is the servant of God and a sign of unity. Soon all of us Anglicans who hold to traditional and biblical orthodoxy will return home to our original home in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. We can now call ourselves REAL Catholics for the first time in 500 years praise God. I pray that the Orthodox will soon come back too. The Pope has primacy of honor among all bishops, and the Bishop of Rome is the Universal bishop for all Christendom. Our Lady of Walsingham has prevailed and our Anglican liturgy will not only survive, it will flourish in its rightful home.