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August 10, 2003



Andrew Sullivan seems to be rationalizing
his fight with the Church by placing
false (they were wrong on slavery)
objections, rather than directly dealing
with his real objections to the Church.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Amy, the kind of careerism to which you allude is exactly why the Church needs a more open, accountable, transparent -- and, yes, democratic model of polity. Granted, careerism has more to do with unfettered personal ambition and no governance model can completely defuse such ambition (just look at California and Gray Davis). But more democratic governance at least offers the possibility of holding leaders accountable (again, look at California and Davis. The governor is so incompetent that he's up for a recall election).

Now, I realize that "democracy" is a dirty word to most doctrinaire Catholics. That's because many of them think in medieval, monarchistic terms, not in modern ones. Many others fear "schism" or the kind of confusion that exists in the Episcopal Church. My friends, Episcopal confusion has nothing to do w/a more democratic structure; it has everything to do with decades-old rejection of basic orthodoxy common to all Christian denominations. Besides, evangelical denominations and congregations are even more democratic, and nobody accuses them of theological confusion or even betrayal.

When it comes right down to it, the contemporary Church already is in schism because of Magisterial incompetence. The current centralized hierarchy merely disguises that fact -- and none too well, I might add.

Rachelle Linner

A long time ago I knew a Lutheran minister -- a man who embodied the fruits of the Spirit in both his personal and ministerial life. He said that when he was in his final year Saul Alinsky spoke to the class and said they only needed to ask one question before ordination. "Do I want to be a bishop or do I want to remain a priest" and that everything they did would flow from the answer. If the latter, the person would be free for the possibility of taking different kinds of risks. I have noticed in professional life, though, that sometimes it is healthier to admit ambition rather than deny it out of some poorly disguised pseudo-humility.


Joseph, I'm an Anglican (for now) and I'd like to address your point.

1. Who decides what is orthodoxy? What the homosexuality debate shows above all is the failure of sola scriptura principles against modernist historical-critical exegesis. Once Tradition is devalued, there is no defense against those who would devalue Scripture. Compare this with the legal battles between "original intent" traditionalists and "living Constitution" revisionists -- it's the same fight in a different arena.

2. It is very hard to choose leaders by majority vote and not determine doctrine by majority vote at the same time. (See Robinson, Gene)

3. Evangelicals are theologically confused, but their confusion is masked by the fact that they are autonomous; they solve doctrinal confusion through schism. There are a thousand varieties of Presbyterianism.


I'm a thoroughly modern woman in a thoroughly modern world... and I don't think in "medieval, monarchistic terms" at all.

The hard lesson I learned recently was that "the decades-old rejection of basic orthodoxy common to all Christian denominations" was directly the result of a democratically based church - in which the tyranny of the majority rules. For better or for worse, I'll go with the barque of Peter.

But then, I am in the arch of Boston where, by a slight majority, Catholics would vote to establish the Catholic Church in America and separate themselves from Rome. Really.


"He said that when he was in his final year Saul Alinsky spoke to the class and said they only needed to ask one question before ordination. "Do I want to be a bishop or do I want to remain a priest"

Rachel, I'm surprised at this one -- Lutherans have, at least up till now, been pretty confessionally conservative and I'd be surprised to hear then being addressed by someone as radical as Alinsky. Also, didn't someone tell him that Lutherans don't call their pastors "priests"?



Rachelle, I apologize for misspelling your name in my earlier post.



Rachelle, I apologize for misspelling your name in my earlier post.


Michael Tinkler

another note on 'democracy'

One reason Episcopalians in America have the bishops they do is that the people SUBMIT THEIR OWN NAMES as candidates for election.

Self-nomination = careerism

Now I'm a big promoter of Thomas Reese's Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church.

That book is as good a description as you're going to find of HOW men get to be bishops (and archbishops) in the Catholic Church. Beside the open electioneering of the ECUSA it doesn't look so bad.


According to this column, Derb may soon wax nostalgic for this era:

The variety of religious experience - vive la difference

The author looks foward to the day when heterosexual men are rare in the Episcopal and Catholic Churches priesthood.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Colleen, many conservative Catholics (not necessarily you) have this fondness for hierarchical governance that makes them de facto monarchists. Besides, did the early churches that Paul ministered to and wrote to suffer from the "tyranny of the majority"? Were they organized under a hierarchical format? Frankly, I don't think you can find either in his epistles. Granted, you do find communities in flux; that's why Paul had to reinforce his original preaching. But that flux had to do with the immature faith of the believers in question, not their governing structure.

Colleen, do you seriously believe that God gives His blessing to one form of governance over another? What matters more to God, church polity or the proclamation of the Gospel and the development of faith? And if one form of governance, whether democratic or hierarchical, fails to facilitate either goal, why should it be retained?

Craig, you say it's very hard to choose church leaders democratically w/o choosing theology democratically. I'm sure the Anglican communion has had its current polity long before the kind of concerns w/intellectual fashion began to creep in. Is the latter based on the former or on other considerations? Besides, we Americans choose political leaders democratically; do you see anyone in mainstream politics wishing to put the concept of a Constitution or the Bill of Rights up for a popular vote? After all, those two entities constitute the "theology" (for lace of a better term) of the American political ethic.

Craig, you also say evangelical autonomy might mask "theological confusion." Perhaps, but evangelicals aren't so confused as to deny Christ's divinity, the resurrection or the virgin birth, let alone ordain gay ministers. On the essentials, evangelicals aren't as confused as you might think. They're probably more certain of who they are than Anglicans.


Joseph, many progressive Catholics (not necessarily you) have this fondness for a democratic form of governance in the Catholic Church. It makes them a de facto Congregationalist.

Now come on, Joe. There are distinct references and directions on bishops, etc. in the bible. A hierarchal structure. If you subscribe to the "keys" and the "binding and loosing" then you would believe, as a Catholic, in the primacy of Peter. Then you have your presbyters, etc. The perfect set-up for an earthly "Kingdom of God."

You ask me whether I believe God gives his blessing over one form of governance or another. Hey, all I know is that He left us One Church, gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom, gave Peter the bound and loose speech and promised not to abandon the Church. Said the gates of hell wouldn't prevail, in fact. I believe Him.

A democratic form of religion is found in the Episcopalian Church. The majority decided that it would be a good and holy thing to elevate a practicing homosexual - who left his wife and children - to the level of bishop. All parties said that the Holy Spirit guided them in their decision. Looks like mob rule from my side of the fence.

I'll stick with the way things are and the way things have been in the Catholic Church - you know, the one filled with sinners but the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

You sound like that priest, Fr. Girzone - the one who wrote "Joshua."


I don't know why "monarchist" is such a bad word for Joseph. Jesus repeatedly speaks of the "Kingdom" that is not of this world; a "Kingdom" necessarily implies a "King", not in the earthly sense of powermongering but indeed a MON (one) archial (ruling/ruler) head. Jesus, now enthroned in glory is indeed our King forever because his authority was self-authenticated -- "never has anyone spoken as he has ..." The reign of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a monarchial reign and will be so forever -- a Lutheran pastor once observed wisely in a sermon that even in eternity, God will not be our "buddy" -- even when we will know as we are known on the other side of eternity, we are forever his creatures and our awe for him will not cease.

I have a sneaking suspicsion that heaven will not be a democracy, either.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Christine and Colleen,
My problem with "monarchism" is that, in human history, it has allowed monarchs to gain more power at the expense of average people and kept them from having any say in their own affairs. The soverign, his ministers and his courtiers are hidden from view (unless the soverign's handlers organize activities in which the soverign's subjects can behold him w/o getting too close). They discourage accountability and transparency. They live in their own world, unencumbered by the reality most people face.
Gee, I've just described the Vatican!

You know, ladies, other people throughout history thought as I did, far more profoundly. Ever heard of the Magna Carta? John Stuart Mill? Thomas Paine? Thomas Jefferson? James Madison?

Yes, indeed, Jesus has monarchical power and will rule with same when He returns. But Jesus is perfect. He is God. He is merciful, compassionate, just, righteous and all-powerful. His monarchy can never be compared to the corrupt monarchies (and papacies) of old. Keep in mind, also, that the citizens of heaven will have been transformed from their earthly natures.

Colleen, you say the Episcopal Church has a democratic polity and, as a result, is theologically bankrupt. Evangelical churches have more democratic polity and they wouldn't (unlike some Anglican leaders) deny the virgin birth, Christ's divinity or His resurrection, let alone put up with the nonsense that Robinson's appointment represents. Why? Because evangelical churches are committed to understanding and spreading the Gospel, while the Episcopalians are committed to intellectual fashion at any cost.

Finally, let me discuss the "hierarchical" perogatives of Jesus and Peter that Colleen raises. Colleen, do you seriously believe that either Jesus or Peter would tolerate the kind of nonsense that has been going on in our Church, of which the clerical abuse crisis is the latest example? Would they tolerate the kind of instinctual self-preservation and ever-growing lust for influence that marks the hierarchy? Would they tolerate a Pope who spends more time on geopolitical matters than on his pastoral responsibilities? Does protection from the "gates of Hell" mean that God will not scourge or chastise His Church so that those gates don't prevail?


And yet, Joseph, when an earthly monarch was a wise and just ruler (and there have been many) he reflected, even if imperfectly (and who among us is perfect?) the mercy and care of the heavenly King to whom he knew he would one day give an account. Their patronage also helped create some of the most stunning cultural and artistic achievements the world has ever seen.

You sound a lot like those evangelicals who have confused human political systems, be they democracy or whatever, with the reign of God.
I'm afraid I don't have a whole lot of empathy for Thomas Jefferson, Madison and some of their other deist cohorts. Jefferson had very little use for the Christ of the New Testament.

I also wish you could talk to some former evangelicals who were driven out of their churches by the tyranny of a pastor who ruled with an iron fist by beating them over the head with his view of how scripture should be understood. And you still won't address the deep deficit in evangelical theology of the Eucharist -- Jesus explicitly says in John's Gospel that unless one eats his flesh and drinks his blood he will not have spiritual life but that those who do will be raised up on the last day. Until evanglicals acknowledge this they are presenting only half the Gospel.


Say it ain't so, Joe! You can't be serious about what/who Jesus Christ and Peter tolerated in their midst.... Judas.

Look Joseph, if an evangelical church decides (by popular vote) to deny the Virgin Birth (sorta like how today's Lutherans deny Martin Luther's beliefs & teaching about the Virgin Mary - come to think of it, John Calvin's followers deny his beliefs & teaching on the Virgin Mary as well) all that will happen is that we'll have one more evangelical church around. They just morph into something else to accomodate their own personal belief system.

As unpleasant as it is for you, Jesus Christ handed only Peter the keys. He gave Peter the bound and loose speech alone and then he gave it to the other disciples - including Judas!

When we are a holy people then we will get a holy hierarchy. After all, the bishops and priests all come from the ranks of the laity.

You know, if you want your voice to be heard regarding the elevation of a priest, monsignor, bishop or cardinal, you can write to the papal nuncio and tell him what you think.

Joseph D'Hippolito

Colleen and Christine,
1. The issue isn't evangelical v. Catholic theology. I bring up evangelicals only as an example of churches that have democratic polity and do not reject the basic doctrines of Christianity. Colleen, if you seriously believe that any evangelical church would reject the Virgin Birth by popular vote, then you don't know a blessed thing about how evangelicals view their faith.

2. The issue also isn't whether monarchs have done great things in the past. Of course, there have been great monarchs and great pope. But there have also been evil monarchs and evil popes. The issue is holding such people accountable and implimenting the most effective structures to do so. That's why I mention Jefferson, Madison, Paine, and Mill (and, Christine, you should get on your knees and thank God such men as Jefferson and Madison exisited. They made the freedom that this nation embodies possible -- unless you're one of those spoiled Americans who takes such freedom for granted).

3. Apparently, neither of you want to hold not one bishop accountable. Let me take you back to last year's meeting of the bishops in Dallas. Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, not known by any stretch of the imagination as a liberal, told a group that he sent this pope a copy of a letter that Catherine of Siena sent to the pope of her day. What did the letter say? That if the pope goes to Hell, it would be for appointing bad bishops.

4. Jesus and Peter did tolerate Judas ... until Jesus told Judas to go do what he had to do before the Last Supper started. While Jesus hoped for Judas' repentance, He knew that Judas was critical to the fulfillment of the divine plan for redemption. What kind of divine plan does the isolation of a hierarchy that discourages accountability and transparency fulfill?

5. Colleen says, "when we are a holy people then we will get a holy hierarchy. After all, the bishops and priests all come from the ranks of the laity." Well, the Catholic Church is supposed to be counter-cultural. What does it say about the way the Church trains its priests and bishops when they fail to "think like Christ" on a basic moral issue such as the molestation of youth? The conventional wisdom of Colleen's remark is just another way of covering the hierarchy's "cathedra" through the convenient use of blaming the victim through Catholic guilt. It's the laity's fault that clergy and hierarchy over whom they have no control behave? Balderdash!

Joseph D'Hippolito

By the way, Christine and Colleen, how does Jesus giving the "keys to the kingdom" justify the Church's co-opting of Roman imperial titles (such as the now-disused "pontifex maximus" and even "father" for the pope) and positions (the Curia), the neurotic concerns about secrecy in the Vatican and the refusal of its hierarchy to be accountable or transparent to the faithful (clerical and lay) in whose spiritual interests the Church is supposed to act under the trust God gave it?

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