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Division worse than heresy?!

If you have followed my blog for a while, you have read about the tribulations of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church has the Communion in a quandary over many things, most especially over the ordination of a bishop who is living in an openly homosexual relationship. Part of the problem is the Anglican Communion has never really had a Catechism so there is no specific source to outline exactly what the Anglican Communion believes. They recite the Nicene Creed, but the Creed doesn’t cover everything. To remedy this, the Anglican Communion is working on an Anglican Covenant that will offer instruction on very specific issues, including issues of sexuality. This does not sit well with the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Alan Harper.

Speaking in his address on the Feast Day of St Mary Magdalene, he said he had come to believe that “division is a greater sin even than heresy”.

Specifically with regards to the Covenant he says:

Archbishop Harper said that unless it were “open and generous and broad” it may simply turn out to be a “further means of obstruction; a boulder, rather than a lever to remove what obscures and impedes our access to the truth that sets us free”.

So it is better to speak what is false than to speak the truth and risk alienating those who will not accept the truth? The more I read of the Anglican Communion, the more I appreciate our Catholic Magisterium. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he handed the keys to Kingdom to Peter.


phbrown said…
"Division is worse than heresy" is an idea that crops up fairly often among Anglican churchmen who are desperately hoping to hold the Anglican Communion together. From a Catholic point of view, it's almost laughably incoherent—division implies heresy (because it breaks the God-ordained unity of God's Church), and heresy implies division (because heresy breaks communion within God's Church). And that's not even to mention the irony of an Irish Anglican, whose church was conceived in division, talking about the sin of division.

Interestingly—or painfully, depending on your point of view—Harper's statement is incoherent even in Anglican terms. (I say this as a cradle Episcopalian, who put in my years trying to reform the Episcopal Church back towards historic Anglicanism before I realized that even historic Anglicanism cannot claim to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the way the Catholic Church can.) Even in Anglican terms, heresy, by elevating one's own opinions above the opinions of the community as a whole, breaks the communion God ordained for His Church and spits in the face of Jesus's prayer for unity in John 17. So even in Anglican terms, heresy implies division: indeed, in Anglican terms, division is the only way to
tell heresy from error.

But the division in Anglicanism stems precisely from the innovations of the theological revisionists, with whom Harper aligns himself elsewhere in his statement. So the statement is not only incoherent but (despite Harper's attempts at balance) hypocritical.

Which isn't to say that there are no Catholic bishops fully capable of the same level of toxic nonsense as Harper's; sin knows no denominational (or hierarchical—I am no better!) boundaries. Rather, it is to echo your point, Denise: thank God for the Magisterium, and for the grace by which God protects His Church from error!

Catholic Mom said…

Your comment is brilliant and far more eloquent than my original post. Thank you! You are quite right that we Catholics have our own collection of errant teachers. Fr. McBrien, Bishop Trautman, Cardinal Mahoney, et al have probably offered similarly convoluted theology at one point or another. While it is a gravely serious matter if these men lead individual souls astray, I am grateful for the Magisterium through the power of the Holy Spirit that keeps our institutional Church anchored to the Truth.
Rosemary Bogdan said…
"division is worse than heresy." and "unless it were “open and generous and broad” .....sounds like it's all about the god of being able to do whatever one pleases. Yes, let us be grateful for the chair of Peter.

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