Wednesday, February 27, 2008

San Joaquin & the Southern Cone

On the face of it, it appears that what Abp. Venables of the Southern Cone was tring to do with Bishop Schofield and the Diocese of San Joaquin was contrary to the canons of the Southern Cone itself. One might have greeted the news of Venables assuming authority as a marginal improvement in the situation, inasmuch as Schofield and those going along with him would then at least have been formally accountable to someone, and would not be left simply to improvise while wandering in a limbo of their own design. But now it seems such optimism was hasty; Venables' assumption of authority reproduces the same type of disorder Schofield's assumption of authority produced. That is, he acts not merely in an area neglected by or left vague in the relevant canons, but acts contrary to the canons. In effect, he assumes a position of sovereignty with respect to those over whom he exercises this power; he enters in to a state of exception with regard to them.

In my opinion, any exercise of that type of authority is grave; what it means for those believers who have in practice been dragged into Schofield and Venables' experiment is that, as I've noted earlier

[t]hey are now in a kind of limbo. They have been made to exist in a space where anything is possible, insofar as they are parishoners.... They have been made the exceptions on the receiving end of an exercise of [extracanonical] sovereign authority, a kind of self-constituting act by Schofield [and Venables]. That is, by acting just as a genuine, regular bishop may, he [and Venables] might constitute[their] power as genuinely and regularly episcopal

and the result for the time being is

[n]ot just a kind of state of nature, but rather a kind of normalization of certain aspects of the state of nature, or better: a new communion of provinces is envisaged with relief, pride, and joy where these aspects are considered normal. Where community is established through such means beyond canon and law, beyond ethical rationality and accountability, it cannot help but instantiate the camp as its type.

That is, the ripples of ecclesial disorder and diminished being initiated by Schofield's salto mortale--recall for example his risible effort to remain both in the Episcopal Church and the Southern Cone as a viable bishop in each--have not gone away. They are spreading and have apparently already enveloped Venables and the Southern Cone.

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