It was sad to read the public comments of the Episcopal Bishop of Washington denying the importance, or need for the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the dead,  going so far as to imply this teaching was “outlandish. ” More on that in a moment, but first some background.

Some time ago I brought a former Episcopalian into the Catholic Church who, after the Rite of Reception gave a great sigh of relief and said, “I know the Catholic Church is not without problems, but at least I know the Bishops actually hold the Christian faith. It is such a relief to be in the harbor of truth.”

I remember at the time wondering with him if that wasn’t a bit of an exaggeration of how bad things were in the Episcopalian denomination (this was about 1990). But he showed me a scrapbook of article after article of dozens of Episcopal “Bishops” denying quite publicly the divinity of Christ, the Virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, that there was any inherent conflict between Christianity and Unitarianism, etc., not to mention a plethora aberrant moral stances.

Most notable among them, but not at all alone, is now retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong who still freely roams the halls of Episcopal parishes and openly calling the Nicene Creed “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John” and declaring that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins, even going so far to say that we are not sinners at all [*], in outright contradiction to Scripture (e.g. 1 John 1:10) and, frankly, common sense.

The scrapbook was quite thick with painful articles of Episcopal bishops and clergy saying and doing the most incredible things, outright denying basic dogmas. Indeed, when a Christian leader publicly denies the divinity of Christ, or the Trinity, of the redemptive power of Jesus’ death he/she is no longer a Christian at all.

All these memories came back to me when a priest-friend sent me a link to the “Easter” Statement of the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Mariann Budde, who quite plainly states that it wouldn’t bother her a bit if the tomb with the bones of Jesus were found.

Well, pardon me for being a bit old fashioned and “stuck” in biblical categories, But Rev. Budde, it darn well ought to bother you. And further, even to brook the notion that such a tomb could be found and then add it wouldn’t bother you is a pretty explicit denial of the faith . Here is what the bishop says in her own words, (pardon a few Red remarks from me). These are excerpts, the full remarks of Bishop Budde are here: Bishop Mariann’s blog

To say that resurrection is essential doesn’t mean that if someone were to discover a tomb with Jesus’ remains in it that the entire enterprise would come crashing down. The truth is that we don’t know what happened to Jesus after his death, [But we DO know what happened!] anymore than we can know what will happen to us [Here too I am puzzled, Scripture is actually quite clear as to what will happen after we die: death, judgement, heaven or hell, (likely a pit stop for some purgation for the saved)]. What we do know from the stories handed down is how Jesus’ followers experienced his resurrection. What we know is how we experience resurrection ourselves. [So their “experience wasn’t necessarily real? Then what was it? And if nothing necessarily or actually happened, then how do we “experience” a non-event or a dubious one? What is there to experience?]

That experience is the beginning of faith, not in the sense of intellectual acceptance of an outlandish proposition, but of being touched by something so powerful that it changes you, or so gentle that it gives you courage to persevere when life is crushingly hard…… [Ok, so, the most fundamental Christian dogma, the Resurrection of Jesus, is and “outlandish proposition” which apparently requires no “intellectual acceptance.” Yet despite this, it somehow has the power somehow to change our life. The logic is as mystifying as the denial of the faith is deep].

Well, it doesn’t get much worse than this. In fact, let us call this what it is, a total loss.

For one who denies the Bodily resurrection of Christ (and there is no kind of resurrection other than a bodily resurrection) such a person  really even qualify for the charge of heresy, one has to be a Christian to be a heretic.

Of a great tragic loss of faith like this, St. Paul says,

If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead….And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain; you are still in your sins….[and] we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep!  1 Cor 15:12-20

Of the historicity of the Bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ the Catholic Catechism has this to say:

The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the Twelve are the primary “witnesses to his Resurrection”, but they are not the only ones – Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion and also of James and of all the apostles (1 Cor 15:5).

Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact.

It is clear from the facts that the disciples’ faith was drastically put to the test by their master’s Passion and death on the cross, which he had foretold. The shock provoked by the Passion was so great that at least some of the disciples did not at once believe in the news of the Resurrection. Far from showing us a community seized by a mystical exaltation, the Gospels present us with disciples demoralized (“looking sad”) and frightened. For they had not believed the holy women returning from the tomb and had regarded their words as an “idle tale”. When Jesus reveals himself to the Eleven on Easter evening, “he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.”

Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. “In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.” Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee “some doubted.”

Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 642-643).

Thanks be to God for the pure water of faith as expressed by Scripture and the Catechism. Indeed, as my convert friend from years ago said, it is such a relief to be in the harbor of truth.

Do pray for the kindly episcopal bishop of Washington. Pray too for good Episcopalians of Washington. May the truth one day reunite us all that there may be according to Christ’s will, one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).

Careful with the comments. This is a great sadness, a tragedy really. Pray before submitting comments.

139 Responses

  1. diffal says:

    Some Catholic universities teach that kind of nonsense today, albeit in a much milder form. For example, a friend told me of a former Christology professor in the Gregorian university in Rome who taught that the Resurrection was a real event just not a historical one(I still have know idea what that is supposed to mean) he only retired last year. thankfully while our tide is returning to orthodoxy the same can’t be said of the Episcopalians.

    • JOHN M GRONDELSKI says:

      If you are referring to Gerry O’Collins, then it is unfair to suggest he is unorthodox — see my review of his latest book in the Easter issue of National Catholic Register — O’Collins has vigorously defended the reality of resurrection. What he means is that the “history” of Jesus is not like our experience of “history” (any more than our pre-resurrection body has the same experience as Jesus’ post-resurrection body–they are the same “but”) …. The Gospels clearly say that Jesus was not limited by space or time (he appeared and disappeared in ways on Easter that he never did on, say, Holy Thursday). In that sense, Jesus’ Resurrection is “real,” it happened, it involved his body — Gerry O’Collins is not denying that — but it is not “historical” in the sense that it fits into our space-and-time-bound-history as we understand it. Illustration: when you have Mass celebrated for a deceased relative, the Mass is celebrated at a specific moment in space and time, but does that mean that God (and the deceased soul), who is beyond time, has to “wait” around for a couple of years until the Mass is celebrated in our temporal human condition for its benefits to be applied? That’s what O’Cillins is getting at.

  2. Katherine says:

    I left the Episcopal Church for the Catholic Church in 1983 after a dear, beloved priest-friend asked me to sit with a woman he had advised to have a late term abortion as a “lesser evil” than allowing her deformed child its full but very short span of life.

    I grew up in an Episcopal rectory. My grandfather, great-grandfather and three first cousins also were/are Episcopal priests. I loved the Episcopal Church and it’s wonderful liturgy and history, especially when the Roman Catholic liturgy and music became so very pedestrian. It didn’t matter. Truth always trumps beauty.

    There was simply no way to stay and remain a faithful follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t a Christian church anymore, no matter how much its leaders and members shout that it is. And it is unbearably sad.

  3. eddie too says:

    i wonder what motive an episcopalian bishop has for claiming that the gospel accounts of people touching, eating with, hearing and seeing Jesus were all imaginary or made up and not factual?

  4. Frank Hermann says:

    Though sad, this is nothing new. Rudolf Bultmann said virtually the same thing more than half a century ago. Of course, he was Lutheran, not Anglican, but it just goes to show that once people separate themselves from historic Christianity, there is no telling where the bandwagon will take them.

  5. eddie too says:

    even people condemned to hell will have an incorruptible body.

  6. Scott says:

    Katherine I agree and unbearably sad is exactly right! I grew up in the Episcopal Church and my parents have been involved in their little parish their whole lives. I converted to the Catholic Church in 1990. I have watched in disbelief and sadness as the Episcopal Church continues down the road to self induced oblivion. My parents little church broke away along with the entire diocese of Ft. Worth and now they are involved in protracted litigation. Now near the end of their lives they may be left with literally no church to call home. I can’t tell you how angry I get at the pompous, arrogant, and ultimately non-christian bishops and priests that have led the Episcopal Church down this road to nowhere.

  7. Mark says:

    As a former Anglican bishop who was received into the loving arms of the Catholic Church this past Easter Sunday, all I can say is, Thank you my Lord Jesus Christ. The Episcopal Church is a lost cause and Anglicanism is not far behind it. Many of the so-called “orthodox Anglicans” still want to hold to women’s ordination as priests and even bishops. The priestess of Washington DC is a perfect example of what happens ultimately when heresy is allowed to run its logical course.

  8. George McHenry says:

    When the Episcopal (Anglican) Church was founded, it was on the basis of adultery. Therefore, nothing should surprise us about the opinions of their members.

  9. Isabel says:

    You got that right, George! So sorry for the impoverished state of these precious souls.

  10. R.C. says:

    It is indeed sad.

    What, really, must folk like C.S.Lewis and Oswald Chambers think?

    I grant that in all likelihood, Lewis is either busy “having the tooth out” and waiting for the dentist to finish rinsing; or else he’s past that bit and is having a grand time and has far too many adventures to enjoy to spend much time thinking about the Anglican church. And I expect he’s had a good-natured ribbing from his friend Tolkien.

    But if he has had a moment to spare for the sad goings-on in his former communion, what must he think? “I told them it wasn’t a good idea, having priestesses in the church” would be perfectly just, but I think Lewis was a bit too gracious to say it, even on this side of the veil.

    Speaking of purgatory, do you ever wonder if Henry VIII’s (and Luther’s, and Calvin’s) stays in purgatory — assuming for the sake of generosity they made it to purgatory — consist solely of having to listen to the thoughts and words of the heretical clergy employed their schismatic groups as those clergy said increasingly asinine and inexcusable things over the centuries?

  11. AlfromFl says:

    It is, indeed, a sad journey that many follow these days. It is with a heavy heart that I watch the decline in this country as we stray from our Judeo-Christian principles. Many seem not able to discern the difference between social justice and Marxism as they follow those who want to replace our constitutional republic with a secular socialist form of gov’t. Our discourse has become coarse, trite and lacking in reason and common sense – selfish and only interested in one’s own gain. The Catholic Church and good Christians stand in the way of these miscreants but too many are silent. Pray for our country and for these poor souls that would lead us astray.

  12. Bryan Hunter says:

    Anticipating that the Church would become his physical body on earth through the reality of sacramental living, Jesus said, “Whatever you do to these least of these children you do unto me.” I mean what I am about to say without any bone of malice or contention, rather with a great degree of sadness, but a church that has allowed the system-wide sexual abuse of its children by its clergy and then to have those in the highest ranks of ordained ministry sweep the whole thing under the rug until they were literally forced to acknowledge the elephant in the room should approach criticism of ANY other denomination with the deepest degree of humility. “Whatever you do to my children, you do to me.” Ask yourselves, “What has the Catholic Church done to the body of Christ?” before casting dispersion on others.

    • For the record, I have never abused children. I have been a Celibate cleric for 25 years now and I have never strayed outside this, not even once. And this is the experience of most of my brother priests too. Further, I am not “the Church…criticizing another denomination” I am a Catholic cleric raising concerns about a very serious, pivotal and doctrinal error of a fellow cleric from another denomination.

      Your topic has been discussed here before and there is no need to answer you, I have spoken well enough before on this. But your raising it is a red herring, and an attempted personal attack. But this article is about an issue, and a significant one at that.

      I will not be silenced by your attempt to shame me for something I have never done. Neither will I be silenced by your recitation of the crimes and lapses of other clergy. If you want to trot out the mud, there’s plenty in every denomination, and also among unbelievers at that.

      Now as for you Bryan, to use your own standard, if there is even one sin in your past or in your denomination, I hereby dismiss your right to ever speak on “ANY” topic ever again unless you first present a lengthy litany of humility and have any and all lapses, sins, or any blots fully rehearsed, followed by a long list of mea culpas and promises never to sin again. I note that you have not done that here. Hence you have broken your own rule, hence you ought not comment again, until you fulfill the requirement you have set for others.

    • Brian says:

      It is not the Church that abused these children, but man/men, who have given their soul over to the weakness of the flesh. They chose to abuse, but it is not for us to judge them but for God to judge them, we must learn to be compassionate for those who were abused but also for the abusers. When we talk about the faith we have we must be strong enough to forgive we may never forget but through faith and prayer Christ will help us, God will give us strength and the Holy Spirit will guard us. Peace in Christ

  13. Undergroundpewster says:

    As a cradle to tomb Episcopalian who has been outspoken about the heresy rampant in the denomination, I am not offended at all by this excellent analysis of Bishop Budde’s message. I remain hesitant to cross denominational lines at times, but in the presence of such blatant false teaching, the alarm must be sounded, if for anything but to protect your own flock from following the same path when it pops up, as it and all heresies will.

  14. Bryan Hunter says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    I never accused you of abusing children. It appears we’re both guilty of red herrings. Full disclosure: I am an orthodox Anglican in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, which recently took the courageous stance of disaffiliating with The Episcopal Church because we could no longer remain in communion with a body that not only tolerates, but encourages and promotes, heretical teaching. Furthermore, I serve in a leadership position in my local parish. As such, decisions I have made based on my stance for biblical orthodoxy has exposed me and my family, along with my parish, to expensive litigation at the hands of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. Furthermore, I have been a constant critic of the sort of heterodoxy characterized by Budde’s “Easter” sermon. I did not claim that such assertions should not be exposed by the light of the Gospel, from whatever corner of the church it may come, nor did I claim that Roman Catholic brothers and sisters should not join the communion of saints in decrying the sort of heterodox teaching that comes from way too many quarters in The Episcopal Church. What I was trying to point out (obviously unsuccessfully, and for that I apologize) is the sort of smug criticism exhibited by more than a few Roman Catholics on this string.

    For example:

    “When the Episcopal (Anglican) Church was founded, it was on the basis of adultery. Therefore, nothing should surprise us about the opinions of their members”; and

    “… do you ever wonder if Henry VIII’s (and Luther’s, and Calvin’s) stays in purgatory — assuming for the sake of generosity they made it to purgatory — consist solely of having to listen to the thoughts and words of the heretical clergy employed their schismatic groups as those clergy said increasingly asinine and inexcusable things over the centuries?”; and

    “So sorry for the impoverished state of these precious souls [i.e., Anglicans]; and

    “Many of the so-called ‘orthodox Anglicans’ still want to hold to women’s ordination as priests and even bishops.”

    I was not trying to shame you. That was never the intention of my post. I was merely trying to point out, as I clearly stated, that the Roman Catholic Church is not without its serious warts, and Roman Catholics would do well to keep this in mind, which should engender a sense of humility, rather than the type of smug holier-than-thou attitude exhibited by too many who comment on this post. I was merely suggesting that a little self-reflection about one’s own denomination is in order before one goes about criticizing another. I apologize for not taking a dose of my own medicine, which only goes to demonstrate how exceedingly wicked the human heart truly is.

    I appreciate you shining the light on Bishop Budde’s “vain imaginations.” Furthermore, I appreciate the Roman Catholic Church’s continued courageous stance for orthodox teaching against the tide of secularism that is creeping into to many corners of the church. I pray daily that God will sustain the Roman Catholic Church in its renunciation of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But I would remind your Roman Catholic readers that Anglicanism is NOT simply the Church of England or The Episcopal Church. Those two are an evermore-smaller drop in the bucket compared to the millions of Anglicans around the world, particularly in the Global South, who insist on holding fast to the faith once delivered to the apostles, often at great personal cost.

    I pray God’s blessings on you,

    Bryan Hunter
    Charleston, South Carolina

    • So perhaps you could have engaged individual commenters. Like it or not, blogs are places of lively discussion. I cannot moderate all all the comments but I dont thereby agree with them all in tone or content

      • Bryan Hunter says:

        Fair enough criticism. I trust I made it clear with my follow-own comment that my original post was not directed at you, rather towards a prevailing chorus I detected in the comments. Perhaps I was being defensive and oversensitive–although I’m not so sure considering that as a Protestant one is being stereotyped as a schismatic who is bound for (at best) purgatory. I do hope I made it clear (if I didn’t, I find again I must apologize) that I appreciate and laud your much-needed post. I will be following your site with great interest in the future.

        God’s peace.

  15. […] let us call this what it is, a total loss.There is more. Read Msgr. Pope’s entire piece: Total Loss File: A Prominent Episcopal Leader Denies the Need for the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus.The second case is comments by no less than the Episcopal presiding bishop who, among other […]

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