The Interpretation of the Heritage of the Faith
The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church. "By adhering to [this heritage] the entire holy people, united to its pastors, remains always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. So, in maintaining, practicing, and professing the faith that has been handed on, there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful.
These words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (84) illustrate, by way of practical examples, the glorious ways in which the Church should show forth Her unity, i.e., "remain always faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread…" Please note my emphasis on the word "should." I need not point out the myriad ways in which we do not show forth Her unity. I am particularly dismayed at this point, "…there should be a remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful." How can we possibly expect unity in any aspect of the faith when there exists disunity between the bishops and the faithful? If we can determine the source of this discord, a restoration of harmony here will inexorably lead to harmony in all other areas. The answer as to where the discord starts is to be found in the next article (85).
"The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.
The last statement of article 85 regarding bishops being "in communion with the successor of Peter" is the crux of the matter. To ensure the "remarkable harmony between the bishops and the faithful," there must first exist a harmony between the bishop(s) and the Holy Father. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted a hierarchical Church, by definition such an institution requires a hierarch, and we know to whom this office was entrusted by our Savior (Matt. 16:18). As soon as a bishop, or groups of bishops, sever their ties with the See of Peter, their pronouncements, judgments, etc., become arbitrary. Why then should priests remain faithful to these unfaithful bishops? Consequently, the faithful are presented with an example of those who have demonstrated an unwillingness to submit to established authority. The faithful in turn, whether it be individually or in groups, will follow this rebellious example and begin to make capricious determinations in matters of faith, and, consequently harmony ends. We need do nothing more than survey the saga of several groups of "Continuing" Anglicans to witness this ecclesiastical harmonic dysfunction.
The faithful bishops of the TAC made an explicit, solemn, and public appeal for communion with the Bishop of Rome in October 2007, knowing that it is an ecclesial and theological imperative to be in communion with the Vicar of Christ, and knowing that without this communion each and every one feel themselves to be free to do what is right in their own eyes. This restoration of harmony between our bishops and the Holy Father can do nothing but foster harmony between the bishops and the faithful, enabling us to truly proclaim ourselves to be "One body, and one Spirit… called in one hope of [our] calling (Eph. 4:4)."
Thank you, faithful bishops,
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