Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sullivan Reacts to the Catholic/Anglican Merger

Andrew Sullivan the openly gay conservative blogger (and practising Catholic) over at the Daily Dish has this to say about the Pope's recent announcement:

For now, however, it seems an almost baldly political move, made at a pace more reminiscent of modern politics and public relations than the traditional ecclesiastical creaking of the wheels. That is troubling to me. Churches are supposed to be about eternal truths and freedom of conscience, not what amounts to an unfriendly take-over bid for a franchise.

And it does not seem to have occurred because of some deep resolution of the theological disputes between Anglicans and Catholics, but merely by a shared abhorrence of women priests and openly gay ones. If you want to switch churches, prejudice seems a pretty poor reason for doing so. But this is so sudden it will take some time to absorb and it's a little hard to take in. Stay tuned.

I appreciate Mr. Sullivan's take on this matter but I am surprised by his "innocence" on the baldly political nature of the Church. The history of all faiths have deep connections to politics. Anglicanism would not exist if it were not for Henry's political concerns about an heir, the Prophet was both a religious and political leader for early Muslims, Shinto is in large part the cult of the Emperor, and so on.

As a believer he comments that a church is "supposed to be about eternal truths and freedom of conscience, not what amounts to an unfriendly take-over bid for a franchise." While this may be the ideal of many churches, however, it is rarely their practice. Churches have always been and will always be, in part, political for the simple reason that people differ on what the "eternal truths" are. So long as there is "heresy" there religions will act in "baldly political" ways to preserve themselves. Without the challenge of the Marcionites and other gnostic sects, the Catholic Church itself would never have coalesced and the canon would never have been compiled.

Aristotle's observation that man is a zoon politikon (a "political animal") helps explicate this matter nicely. Outside the body politic are only beasts and gods.

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