Re: Conflicts, contrasts or differences between Catholics and Protestants in Great Britain

On 1 Apr 2006 06:25:31 -0800, "Revd. Eric Potts" <loiner2003@xxxxxxx>

Alec Brady wrote:
On 1 Apr 2006 04:03:26 -0800, "Revd. Eric Potts" <loiner2003@xxxxxxx>
And herein does lie a distinction in relationships between those of the
Catholic Church and Donatists etc and relationships today between the
RCC and so-called 'ecclesial communities' - namely that such communties
are not deemed to be essentially heretical in the sense of damned but
are in fact vehicles through which Christians might genuinely exercise
faith and find salvation, even if they are believed to be lacking in
fullness of faith in some way.

IIUC Augustine's complaint about the Donatists wasn't that they held
incorrect opinions - though he clearly believed they did - but that
they had abandoned Catholic unity to express those opinions. The
Donatists believed themselves to be the only remnant of the true
Catholic Church, and that the worldwide communion had fallen away
through its wrongheaded laxity towards sinners.

The rest of the Donatists' theology was scarcely if at all different
from the Catholics'. They believed in rebaptism and that an unworthy
minister did not validly offer the sacraments, but everything else was
the same. They were more similar to the Catholics than (say) the
Methodists are to the RCC.

And yet the RCC has ongoing conversations with the Methodists in
parallel, though less well known, than ARCIC.

As Augustine did with the Donatists
"A son had beaten his mother, and threatened her life; to
avoid Catholic discipline, he joined the Donatists and was
rebaptized by them: as Augustin says, he wounded also his
spiritual mother by contemning her sacrament. Public
registration of the facts were made by Augustin, all the more
because the reported instructions, given by bishop
Proculeianus to his presbyter Victor concerning the
affair, had already been denied. The case presented an
opportunity for getting at some rule for the recognition of
one another?s discipline. Accordingly Augustin addresses
himself to Eusebius, a judicious Donatist of higher rank. He
professes that his aim is peace; he emphasizes with impatient
vehemence his opposition to coercive measures in matters of
conscience: neque me id agere ut ad communionem catholicam
quisquam cogatur invitus. He asks Eusebius to find out
whether Proculeianus had given the order to his presbyter as
recorded; whether the bishop would consent to a collation
between themselves and ten selected men on each side,
agreeably to the original suggestion so that the whole
question might be discussed from the Scriptural grounds, not
the historical. Some proposals for a meeting either at the
Donatist region of Constantina, or at their projected council
at Milevis, he could not accept, because both lay outside of
his diocese. If Proculeianus objected to the dialectic and
rhetorical skill of his counter bishop, the latter would
propose Samsucius, bishop of Turris, an earnest but
uncultivated man, as a substitute to lead the Catholic side.
(Ep. xxxiv.).

So, no change there, then!

For whatever reasons he was much more scathing about them than the
modern RCC is towards the 'separated brethren', even saying that their
baptism, while valid, was of no avail to someone who remained outside
the Catholic Church. That's a historic difference, but I don't think
it makes the relationship between the CC and the Donatists materially
different from the relationship between (say) the RCC and the CofE

I think it makes a huge difference. The RCC said that the Donatists'
baptism was invalid. Last time I looked it wasn't saying that about
Anglican baptism - or even Methodist baptism, if it comes to that.

Sorry, when was the RCC saying the Donatists' baptism was invalid?

I look in my desk drawer and pull out a baptism certificate which says,
on the back:
"The following Churches have agreed that a certificate in this form is
evidence of Christian Baptism" and then lists, inter alia:
The Catholic Church in Ireland*
The Church of England
The Lutheran Council of Great Britain
The Methodist Church
The Moravian Church.
The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales*
The Union of Welsh Independents
The United Free Church of Scotland etc etc

(*interesting variation in designation; it does rather look as if the
"Catholics" in England and Wales, and Scotland also in fact, do accept
the "Roman" designation as part of the official title of the Church.)

Comes from living among Protestants - I, too, use the RCC designation,
but only in public, not en famille.

Now, if you can, hand on heart, tell me that, with adjustments for the
era, such a document could ever have existed in the fourth century
listing the Catholic Church, the Donatists and others, then I will
agree with you that there is a case that the relationship today is

There wasn't such a form, as far as I know, but clearly Augustine
recognises (while deprecating) the Donatists' baptisms:
"So those, too, who in the sacrilege of schism depart from the
communion of the Church, certainly retain the grace of
baptism, which they received before their departure, seeing
that, in case of their return, it is not again conferred on
them whence it is proved, that what they had received while
within the unity of the Church, they could not have lost in
their separation. But if it can be retained outside, why may
it not also be given there? If you say, "It is not rightly
given without the pale;" we answer, "As it is not rightly
retained, and yet is in some sense retained, so it is not
indeed rightly given, but yet it is given." But as, by
reconciliation to unity, that begins to be profitably
possessed which was possessed to no profit in exclusion from
unity, so, by the same reconciliation, that begins to be
profitable which without it was given to no profit. Yet it
cannot be allowed that it should be said that that was not
given which was given, nor that any one should reproach a man
with not having given this, while confessing that he had
given what he had himself received. For the sacrament of
baptism is what the person possesses who is baptized; and the
sacrament of conferring baptism is what he possesses who is
ordained. And as the baptized person, if he depart from the
unity of the Church, does not thereby lose the sacrament of
baptism, so also he who is ordained, if he depart from the
unity of the Church, does not lose the sacrament of
conferring baptism. For neither sacrament may be wronged."
(De Baptisimo Contra Donatistas I ii)

The fact that relations were more rancorous then than they are now is
no evidence that the relationships weren't the same - rather as the
relationship between sovereign states is the same whether they are
friendly or unfriendly, or my relationship between me and my brother
doesn't depend on whether we get on with each other.

And since there is now seen to be salvation outside the RCC (albeit
perhaps derived therefrom) then the RCC is making a de facto
acknowledgement that it is not identical with the fourth century
Catholic Church. (And about time too, some of us might be tempted to

The RCC says that there is (or at least can be) salvation even for
non-Christians, so I wouldn't make too much of that argument, Eric.

Why not? Do you think I question that there can be salvation for

The point is that the body which I and others refer to as the RCC is in
fact very, very different from that Catholic Church of the fourth
century and it is clear that that Church itself recognises the fact in
the way it acts, even if that has not yet percolated thorugh into
formal doctrine.

The mere fact that it is prepared to have its name listed on a
baptismal certificate as just one of many organisations called
"Churches" is far more than an act of charity and hospitality. Official
documents may talk about ecclesial communities but the practical
reality is that the RCC knows full well that at least some of them are

I think you're reading too much into it. After all, it also knows that
some of them aren't 'Churches' in its use of the term, but it also
knows that the English word is extended to cover them

That is a huge stride forward and is to be welcomed. Eventually the
penny will drop even for your ecclesiogical theologians. And then the
ecumenical movement will really start to happen!

That isn't how I hope it will happen. I hope you can learn to respect
us a little more than that.
Alec Brady
"You have to regard everything I say with suspicion - I may be trying to
bullshit you, or I may just be bullshitting you inadvertently."
- J. Wainwright Mathematics 140b

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