Sunday, 15th October, 2000 : In which the Lutheran Doctrine of the Ministry is debated, Anthony Fisher gives a paper, & I learn more about anullments
There have been several developments this week.
We had a three day Pastor’s Conference at St John’s. Possibly my last. One pastor gave a paper on the Lutheran view of the Ministry, in which he tried to deny that there was any ambiguity in Luther’s own doctrine, and to put across some “via media” between “high church” and “low church” views of the ministry. He dismissed the “bridegroom” analogy, and played down the “persona Christi” aspects. He basically presented Walther's “transfer” doctrine. He dismissed Carl Braaten’s and David Gustafsen’s claim that Lutheranism cannot resolve the problem of the doctrine of the ministry from its own sources. He held to the old Hegelian idea that the truth is somewhere between two extremes. At one point he made the statement that those who hold high church views of the ministry do not accept that the ministry is only by God’s grace and simply want to lord it over their flock (or something like that...) and I piped up and said: “Do you really believe that? because if you do, you are saying that of me!” Few people were satisfied with the paper—they were almost all on one side or the other, and he really demonstrated that what he was trying to do was impossible. You can’t reconcile the essential ambiguity in Luther’s doctrine of the ministry.
Fr Anthony Fisher was a guest speaker on genetics. He spoke well, and I was proud to see that a Catholic had much to show these Lutherans. He arrived a few moments early so that I could introduce him to Peter Holmes and P. Peter hung around, but P., after a quick “Hi! I’m P.--I’m not ready to talk to you yet” dissappeared, and Anthony said: “I hope I didn’t scare him off!”. We assured him this was not the case. Peter then had a longer conversation with him asking if he could make a time to speak. Then I took Fisher in to meet our District President.
The President finally came out and made his opposition to the ordination of women public. Too late, too little, I think.
The Victorian District Synod was a boring affair to say the least. All reports. The one thing to come out of it for me was that I was clearly feeling dissociated from this body and its affairs.
I am seeing Anthony Fisher again tomorrow. He has me reading the Catechism and putting a tick or a cross next to sections—actually, it is all either ticks or question marks if I don’t understand something. There is nothing I come across and say: “No, that isn’t true, that’s against the gospel” etc., since I have accepted the authority of Rome’ magisterium to teach. He has also given me Aidan Nichol’s “The Shape of Catholic Theology” to read. After a rather dry start, I am enjoying it. In fact, what this shows that the difference between Lutheran and Catholic theology is in fact a very deep-rooted difference of method, a difference relating to the understanding of the place of human reason in theology. This will take me a long time to work through.
I have told my spiritual director (in passing at the District Pastors Conference) that I am seeing Fisher, and I also told V. V. was very upset and believed that I was doing this because I was ignorant of the true wealth of Lutheran theology. Dunno about that. How much does one have to know before one knows what it is to be Lutheran? Is Lutheranism some sort of gnostic sect that has different levels of knowledge? I don’t think so.
Talking to Marco Vervoost at the Conference was a rather sureal event. It was clear that we are both on the way out, and we felt like eavesdroppers on a conference that didn’t largely concern us. I put several items on the agenda: "What makes a valid Eucharist", and "Authority of the Ministry", but I don’t know if I will be around in a year’s time to discuss them.
The annulment is finally up and running. Apparently Fr Tony Kerin had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago. A “Fr Salvano” wrote to me and said that “a grave lack of discretion of judgement” on the part of both myself and my previous wife refers
to indications that at the time of marriage neither you nor your partner was in a position to sufficiently appreciate the practical rights and obligations of
marriage that you were undertaking. This may be due to factors in the background of either of you, the circumstances of the courtship and decision to marry, and any other factors surrounding the decision of either of you to marry the other.
On that basis, I feel rather confident that the petition will be granted. But then we also have to meet regarding Cathy’s marriage. Of this Fr Salvano wrote:
The term “dissolution in favorem fidei” means a dissolution of a marriage in favour of the faith of the Catholic party. I presume that Fr. Kerin means
yourself, in the future, in regard to this. The dissolution is granted by the Pope on the basis that it is established that Cathy’s first husband was not baptised.
Again, that sounds good. It is just a matter of establishing that her first husband's non-baptism is a fact (something we only have his word for, and he may be mis-informed), and getting the application in. Just have to wait...
I was a little bit angered by a member of my Casey congregation on Sunday. Apparently some Charasmatic healing celebrity is visiting Casey, and she said said that we should do what "all the other churches in Berwick are doing", that is, "cancelling their services for today and are sending all their people to this healing service.” I said, “Are you sure all the other churches are doing this? I don’t think the Catholics would have done so.” To which she replied: “But Catholics aren’t Christian, are they?”. She said this in the hearing of the wife of one of our members, who is a Catholic. I then entered into a vigorous defence of the Catholic Church as being the original Christians. I think she was a bit taken aback.