I’ll bet this was an awkward moment

I noticed on the site of The Catholic Herald a blurb about a news story in The Guardian:

Jesuit-educated Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reminded the Archbishop of Canterbury that the Church of England is “a breakaway group from the Roman Catholic Church” during an awkward meeting in Harare yesterday (video).

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  1. James says:

    I’m not exactly sure how to feel about this.

  2. Archicantor says:

    I suspect it was awkward in a “here we go again” kind of way. Zimbabwean Anglicans are being persecuted by the state because Sebastian Bakare, the current bishop of Harare, refuses to be a stooge of Robert Mugabe like his canonically deposed predecessor, Nolbert Kunonga. Kunonga, supported by the courts, the police, and various unofficial bodies of pro-Mugabe thugs, has been trying to seize control of Anglican church buildings and assets and to prevent congregations loyal to Bishop Bakare and the Anglican Communion from gathering to worship at all. So I presume that Mugabe’s reference to Anglicanism as a “breakaway group” was an attempt to undermine the credibility of the Church of England by pointing out that not dissimilar things happened in England during the Reformation. It has been Mugabe’s tactic for years to neutralize the influence of foreign critics by painting them as hypocritical ex-colonialists. It would seem that brutal oppression is fine as long as you’re just doing it to your own people. Here’s the context from the Guardian article:

    Flanked by regional church leaders, he [Rowan Williams] presented Mugabe with a dossier of alleged abuses perpetrated against worshippers over the past four years.

    In response, the president delivered a history lesson on Anglo-Zimbabwean relations, detailed his own religious upbringing and reminded Williams that the Church of England is “a breakaway group” from the Catholic church. Despite persistent rumours over the 87-year-old president’s health, Williams commented: “He’s on top of things intellectually.”

    The meeting was the culmination of the archbishop’s two-day visit to Zimbabwe that saw him condemn lawlessness and violence in a sermon cheered by thousands on Sunday. He has pledged support to Anglicans who have been arrested, beaten and locked out of churches by supporters of Nolbert Kunonga, a renegade bishop loyal to Mugabe.

    Williams was allowed to speak first, outlining the dossier which claims that, since 2007, Anglican congregations have suffered systematic harassment and persecution at the hands of the police, including false imprisonment, violence and denial of access to churches, schools, clinics and mission stations.

  3. Sweeny says:

    I think its a true and accurate statement. I didn’t see the video, but as long as it was said with kindness and charity, it is simply a fact that needs to be proclaimed from the roof tops.

    The truth is, that the Truth is and He founded the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church. Anyone outside of that church may be a Christian, but they are not experiencing the fullness that is the Catholic Church.

  4. Genna says:

    Unfortunately, Mugabe is one of the weapons anti-Catholics like to use to against us.

  5. Paul says:

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  6. Matthew the Publican says:

    As a former Anglican I read about this with a keen interest. Mugabe is a tyrant who is helping to kill Christians, end of story. He is trying to take over the Anglican Church there and use it as his state church. While, yes, this may have precedent in Anglican history, it doesn’t make it right. Pray for our brothers and sisters persecuted for professing the Lord Jesus Christ, and pray that Mugabe may repent of his sins and turn to the Lord.

    St Thomas More, pray for the church!

  7. jasoncpetty says:

    Ex ore tyrranidis, Deus, perfecisti laudem propter inimicos tuos.

  8. anilwang says:

    Mugabe is correct. Either the State head had the right to break away from the Catholic Church and persecute Catholics who did not “convert” to the new state religion based on the old, or he didn’t. If he didn’t. If he didn’t then, Henry the Eighth no authority to do what he did and the Anglican Church is a false Church. If he did, then Mugabe can do as he wishes. His case is even stronger than Henry the Eighth, since in his case he didn’t change doctrine, but in Mugabe’s case he is preserving doctrine.

    As a Catholic, I can condemn Mugabe for this and his other atrocities. Baptists who reject any form of hierarchy can also make such a condemnation. But Anglicans can only condemn Mugabe for his atrocities since they also condemn themselves if they condemn his state interference of the Church. Ideas have consequences, and just as you can’t accept contraception and reject abortion without being fundamentally inconsistent, the CoE can’t have it both ways.

  9. Elizabeth D says:

    It makes me think of Pontius Pilate, who seemed fairly persuaded that Jesus was “king of the Jews” and had not committed any crime, and tried to say to the Jews that was how it seemed, yet personally Pilate’s attitude was “what is truth?” and he was open to approve of evil committed by those under his authority. Mugabe decidedly does not support the Catholic Bishops of his country either, who have called for his resignation together with the whole Southern African Bishops’ Conference. What he apparently most wants is for clergy, any clergy, to approve of him, which is apparently why he has accepted supporters of the renegade Anglican bishop who calls Mugabe an “angel” violently seeking control of Anglican churches.

    He said in April to a Protestant congregation: “I am confused by my own Catholic bishops, they must learn from you (ZCC leaders). Often Catholic bishops expose that they are not their own men; they are mere puppets of Western Countries. I grew up in a Catholic Church but now I am totally frustrated by how these so called men of God who lie. All Catholic bishops are liars, they demonise my party every day.” At the same event he said incredibly “Please don’t beat people from opposition parties here; there is nothing which we can get from being violent. We grow and live in the same area so there is no point why we should beat our neighbours for holding a different political thinking. Those whom we beat will never support us so the best strategy to lure our opponents is to love them and live with them in peace. Please I beg you to live peacefully with others.” Has this “poor victim of colonialist bishops” said anything similar to his police etc and done what to enforce it? http://www.thezimbabwemail.com/zimbabwe/7895-catholic-bishops-liars-and-puppets-mugabe.html

  10. mrose says:


    Some good points indeed, and regardless of what one things of Mugabe and his actions (which I in no way mean to sluff off to the side), he has spoken clearly and honestly on that point. Would that our Bishops and our Holy Father do so too.

    That being said, I think anyone can point out atrocities, or really any public sins, even if they too are a sinner. It is about objective actions. Something is wrong even if someone else doing the same thing says so. Now, one’s witness may be greatly impugned by his own actions, but truth is truth. So, Anglicans can point out public wrongs perpetrated by Mugabe and that is all well and good. It will serve the additional benefit of making obvious to thinking persons the contradictions inherent in the Anglican non-Communion.

    Anilwang – In any case, I am not meaning to nitpick and you make some very good points!

  11. Scruffy.scirocco says:

    Well, the genocidal Mugabe is hardly a spokesperson for the church. However, there’s some question here. Some Anglicans claim that the Church of England was founded by Joesph of Arimithea when he landed at Glastonbury and is in fact one of the oldest Christian congregations in existence – having been in communion with the Catholic church for some time, but maintaining a separate Christian identity. Ain’t saying it’s so, ain’t sayin’ it ain’t. Jus’ sayin’…..

  12. Jason says:

    Mugabe is correct about the origins of the Anglican ecclesial community. As far as what “some Anglicans” claim, when the truth of a thing is uncomfortable to say the least, historical revisionism is one way to avoid having to confront it.

  13. uptoncp says:

    Looking at it from another direction, regardless of the accuracy of the comment, by reporting it with implicit approval you lay yourself open to (no doubt unjustified) accusations of also approving of the atrocities he uses it to justify.

  14. laud1645 says:

    Jesuit educated eh?

    I expect the Nag’s Head Fable came up as well then.

    Low as my opinion is of the Archbishop I doubt many things, certainly not that, would phase him.

  15. Tony from Oz says:

    Not wishing to condone monster Mugabe for one moment – but I think the image of him telling off Rowan Atkinson, oops, Williams, is doubly funny and ironic all at once (Mugabe being Jesuit educated and all – although the SJs were sound back in his school days).

    Does anyone have the full transcript of Mugabe’s reply speech to Williams? Now THAT would be worth having!
    Anilwang: excellent points BUT, to give a tyrant his due, Henry VIII did not change Church dogma, and he was not a heretic; rather, he was a schismatic by way of denying the authority of the Pope. The ‘Church of England’ slipped into actual doctrinal heresy during the reign of his son Edward VI, and then again and finally during the reign of his daughter Elizabeth I. So the slide into actual heresy was completed by the time of the ‘Elizabethan settlement’ c.1561 when key Catholic dogmas – predominantly those relating to the Eucharist and, of course, the transformation of the Mass into a memorial service/sacrifice of praise, was complete.
    Henry VIII maintained the Latin Mass, was against married clergy etc etc – but, not unlike modern post-conciliar liberal bishops and clergy, cracked down on traditional buttresses of the faith like pilgrimages and certain sacramentals like ‘lights’/votive candles in Churches – for political reasons attendant upon his break from Rome.

  16. Matthew the Publican says:

    Tony – Eamon Duffy’s works or Christopher Haigh’s “The English Reformations” might convince you that there was more than politics at work in Henry’s attempt at “Catholicism” with out Rome, monastics, purgatory, shrines, indulgences, statuary, votives or processions. The Henrican Catholicism that most of us Anglo Catholics convinced the world existed for all of his reign really only lasted from 1534-1536. The 10 articles of 1536 were partly Lutheran and the 6 articles of 1539 ignored the whole notion of justification and salvation, therefore leaving the Lutheran concessions and abolition of purgatory in effect for the rest of his reign.

    Back on subject – I put forth that Satan and those under his sway use irrelevant fact stating to accomplish evil and distract from its obvious effects. Play the Anglicans off the Catholics and see if you can get the Christians to hate each other – perfectly diabolical.

  17. Ed the Roman says:

    Mugabe provoked a friend of mine to briefly change his political affiliation on Facebook to Rhodesian Front, simply to protest “that buffoon” at a time when he was still being largely ignored.

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, there’s nothing like telling the plain unvarnished truth in broad daylight, is there?

  19. Archicantor says:

    @Matthew the Publican “Play the Anglicans off the Catholics and see if you can get the Christians to hate each other – perfectly diabolical.”

    Well said! Someone who ought to know agrees with you (he is speaking here about the Church of England in the 1940s, but the words are just as applicable to Roman Catholic–Anglican relations today, when we’ve at least stopped killing each other over debated questions):

    I think I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say ‘mass’ and those who say ‘holy communion’ when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any form which would hold water for five minutes. And all the purely indifferent things — candles and clothes and what not — are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials — namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the ‘low’ churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his ‘high’ brother should be moved to irreverence, and the ‘high’ one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his ‘low’ brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility.

    Your affectionate uncle


    (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XVI)

    We come up against these problems all the time when devout Catholics “think” they know what Anglicans mean by, for example, “Real Presence” and when devout Anglicans “think” they know what Catholics mean by, for instance, “Transubstantiation”, when in reality they not only don’t know what the other’s church teaches, but, because of the nearly universal collapse of catechesis, they don’t even know what their own church teaches. I mourn that internal divisions within Anglicanism have so overshadowed, and effectively obviated, the genuine mutual understanding that was reached between Catholics and Anglicans in the course of the ARCIC process. But at least we may have friendship (I so appreciated your comments, Fr. Z, on the passing of your Anglican friend Robert Crouse, whose work I’ve so admired) and may pray for one another and learn from one another. I’ve learned more about the real basis and content of the Christian faith from Pope Benedict than from just about any other contemporary author.

  20. Matthew the Publican says:

    For all the follies of Anglicanism, there is a reason why the Pope of Christian Unity singled out Anglicans for an unprecedented personal ordinariate: generations of Anglo Catholics had a genuine Catholic understanding of the church, albeit not in the fullness. C.S. Lewis is a great example of this type of Anglican, the type that formed me in seminary and made me eventually look to Rome, because of how much we had in common.

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