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WESTMINSTER, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archbishop of York, the second highest ranking prelate in the Church of England, is deploying St. John Henry Newman's theory of the "development of doctrine" to secure the legalization of "same-sex blessings."
On Tuesday, Anglican Abp. Stephen Cottrell told the Church of England's General Synod that the bishops were following Newman, an Anglican convert to Catholicism who was canonized in 2019, in endorsing blessings for homosexual couples.
Cottrell was responding to a question from Benjamin John, a lay member of the General Synod, who challenged the bishops on following biblical teaching or "resigning if they cease to believe, teach or uphold the doctrine of the Church of England on essential matters."
"It is the job of the bishops to teach the faith as we have received it, and if we find ourselves unable to do that, then clearly that is a matter for conscience for the rest of the church," the archbishop conceded.
"It is also the job of bishops, indeed the whole church, to explore what is sometimes called the development of doctrine," Cottrell argued.
"I tend to follow Newman on this. Doctrine doesn't change, but doctrine does develop," Cottrell said. "It's the view my fellow bishops take."
Cottrell used Newman's analogy of an acorn growing into a tree and cited "the doctrine of the Trinity" as "the best example of that, where we find, as it were, the acorn of the doctrine in Scripture."
The mother church of the Anglican Communion is heading for a split as it votes on proposals from the bishops to approve "same-sex blessings." The bishops have drafted a liturgy and prayers to be used for such services.
Sources close to General Synod told Church Militant that the progressive majority in the synod held the votes, and "if this pattern continues tomorrow, the bishops' proposals [for same-sex blessings] will emerge unscathed."
On Wednesday, Jesuit theologian and bioethicist Fr. Juan Masiá Clavel said that Pope Francis' project on synodality was moving in a similar direction towards overruling "homophobic bishops" and eliminating the "alleged sinfulness of any homosexual relationship."
In an article titled "Homosexual Marriage: Neither Crime nor Sin," Masiá wrote, "Currently, the pastoral practice of welcoming people who until now were discriminated against in the Church is a way of preparing for the evolution and revision of the doctrine."
Pope Francis would have to make a "decisive clarification and precision" on "the supposed 'traditional doctrine of the church,'" the Spanish Jesuit noted, but "in that tradition of the church and in that of the Bible there has been, there is and will always be a need for evolution, revision and reinterpretation."
Masiá explained how the Catechism of the Catholic Church had already taken "the biggest step in change in doctrine" by sharply opposing "any discrimination based on homosexual orientation."
But the step in the Catechism "in the development of the doctrine is still very insufficient" and "will have to be modified" — both in the Catechism and in the most recent statements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the theologian argued.
"Admitting in pastoral practice the reception of these [homosexual] civil marriages and the blessing of those marriages in the church is the way to prepare the way for the evolution of doctrine at the level of its magisterial and canonical expressions," Masiá concluded.
During "Pride 2019," the Spanish Jesuit marched alongside LGBT activists in Tokyo and wore a T-shirt with the image of Christ radiating rainbow rays.
Father Masiá later blessed a lesbian couple at their request in the booth of the #LGBT CJ (a faith community of LGBT Catholics in Tokyo).
"If we ask Pope Francis if he would bless that marriage, he will surely answer us: canonically he cannot, but ... who am I to deny an evangelical, pastoral and merciful blessing to that couple who attests with their love the love of God?" the Jesuit explained.
In 2016, Cdl. Christoph Schönborn of Vienna said that Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia was a development of doctrine geared at the full inclusion of homosexuals.
"I don't see that there is a change," Schönborn told a press conference, "But certainly there is a development, just as Pope John Paul developed doctrine ... John Henry Newman explained to us how the organic development of doctrine works. Pope Francis is developing things in this way."
In 2017, Pope Francis used Newman's "development theory" to buttress his decision to add to the catechism that the death penalty is "inadmissible."
"This issue cannot be reduced to a mere résumé of traditional teaching without taking into account not only the doctrine as it has developed in the teaching of recent popes," Francis declared.
"The harmonious development of doctrine demands that we cease to defend arguments that now appear clearly contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth," Francis insisted.
"The word of God cannot be moth-balled like some old blanket in an attempt to keep insects at bay! No. The word of God is a dynamic and living reality that develops and grows because it is aimed at a fulfillment that none can halt," the pontiff explained.
"Doctrine cannot be preserved without allowing it to develop, nor can it be tied to an interpretation that is rigid and immutable without demeaning the working of the Holy Spirit," Francis concluded.
Newman faced stinging criticism from fellow Anglicans for his "development theory." An 1847 essay by J.B. Mozley, Regius professor of divinity at Oxford University, explains how accretions, corruptions and exaggerations may also be mistakenly regarded as development.
Moreover, as a movement grows, it tends to decay more than develop, Mozley argued.
On Thursday, the Church of England's General Synod voted by 250 votes to 181 to approve same-sex blessings.