Sunday, June 26, 2011

Post-Ordinariate Anglican Papalism

It is quite clear that Anglicanism is going through a great upheaval at the moment. By "moment", I really perhaps mean over the last 30-40 years as the Church tries to get to grips with its place in the present philosophical climate.

The major development over the past few years has, of course, been the generous offer of reunion between Anglicans and Roman Catholics via the Ordinariate. It has taken remarkable courage on the part of the Anglican Clergy and Laity to have been the pioneers of this movement and to give up livelihoods, much loved buildings and even relationships in favour of returning to Communion with the Holy Father. Surely this is the Anglican Papalist's dream come true?

I'm afraid I don't believe that it is. I don't want to detract from the respect that I have for all those who have taken the step to set up ordinariate communities, but the fact of the matter is that there are headlines talking about "ex-Anglicans" joining the Ordinariate. It's this epithet "ex-Anglican" that causes me to doubt the idea of "unity but not absorption" that has been the cry of joy uttered by the Ordinariate-bound. If "ex-Anglican" is how these folk are extrinsically regarded from quarters both within and without the Roman Catholic Church, then they have as yet failed to demonstrate unequivocally how they remain Anglican. Surely Anglican Papalism seeks corporate unity with the Roman Catholic Church whilst remaining distinctively Anglican?

I have always said that the existence of Anglican Papalism is intrinsically bound up with the schism in the Church: when the Schism goes away, then so does Anglican Papalism. Has the Schism gone away? That depends on whether there are still Anglicans who regard the Pope as the head of the Church on Earth. I'm not necessarily talking about the supremacy of the Pope, but rather his primacy. To regard the Bishop of Rome as being the Foremost in the Church is Papalism, though of course this comes with some very interesting flavours. There are still many Anglicans who accept this, but not some of the other statements about the nature of the Papacy such as possessing Universal Jurisdiction (which I understand as Papal Supremacy) or Infallibility. They will, nonetheless support the Pope, and pray for the furtherance of his work. That is still Papalism. So Anglican Papalists can still exist without necessarily taking advantage of the Anglican-Roman Ordinariate.

It is also interesting that there are Roman Catholics who do not accept Supremacy or Infallibility themselves, struggle to understand their implications and/or at least cross their fingers when they declare their "acceptance" these doctrines. Perhaps these are Anglican Papalists too, only wishing to reunite the Roman Church with the non-Catholic Anglicanism (if such a beast exists) of the mainstream CofE. Are these members of the Roman "Church of England"?

However, that leads to the question of how unity can be achieved. Now it is interesting that the Ordinariate has fared best in the UK but unsurprising. The Church of England has caused an insurmountable hurdle to be put in place which renders corporate union with the Holy See impossible, but then, it was certainly impossible for the CofE to reunite with Rome considering that there are movements within the CofE which would not reunite with Rome for all the Bibles in Texas. Reunion is only the hope of the Anglo-Catholics - the successors of the Tractarians and the Nonjurors whose fundamental belief in that Anglicanism retains in itself the structures which are inherent in the Catholic and Undivided Church.

However, Anglican Papalists cannot deny that the Schism never happened. That Schism has done much to both the Anglican and Roman Churches who have developed their own character in their long walk apart. The Christian language has developed distinct dialects and it is these dialects that perhaps cause the greatest problems.

I said below that it is the breakdown in language and common sense that has resulted in greater legalism between government and citizen. One can look at the recent Milly Dowler case in which, in order to defend the accused (subsequently found guilty), the defence launched lines of enquiry which grossly invaded the privacy of a family still grieving over the loss of teenage Milly. Common sense surely says something here. Does it really need legislation or have we lost unspoken bonds between human beings.

Likewise with the Church, the unspoken bonds that bound the Church have been disrupted and of course we are unsure about how they are ever to be restored. That must come from the invisible grace of God. What does not help the Anglican Church is the lack of any cohesive body which can offer any rapprochement to Rome, or to the Orthodox Church. Anglicans are apparently split into finer and finer denominations, but the Continuum exists and can be made visible if work is put into it.

If the Affirmation of St Louis can be demonstrated to be a fully Catholic understanding of Christianity, then there is an Anglicanism that can demonstrate its credentials to Rome. There will be many groups of Anglicans who have demonstrated that they do not wish to be included by the innovations which have rendered their idea of Catholicism invalid. A united Anglicanism (proper Anglo-Catholicism) that can demonstrate itself to be sincere in its membership of the Catholic Church would be a jewel in the crown of Christianity and a body with which the other parts of the Catholic Church could feel that they understand their position.

Of course, this presupposes that the Roman Catholic Church wants to reunite in this manner, affirming the continuing Anglicanism of those who would seek the reunion. At the present it is clear that she doesn't as she certainly has done nothing to suppress that epithet of "ex-Anglican". Yet, in setting up the Ordinariate she has shown that she is beginning to understand the position of Anglicans who show themselves to follow the Catholic faith. A clear body of Anglicans whom she can see follow Christ in His Rule would certainly calm any worries that she might have.

The Ordinariate has taken its toll on expressions of Anglicanism that have already had a clear idea of Anglican Catholicity. The TAC seems to be in some turmoil because, largely, they already could see there was a discrepancy between being a member of the Ordinariate and remaining obviously Anglican. There are many fragments of the TAC struggling to understand what to do. They need some clear body to which to align in order to stabilise their situation, and Anglican bodies must reach out to help and offer a hand of Love.

Anglican Papalism is still alive after the Ordinariate, though not really in the form it once was. Any Anglican who longs to be in Communion withe the Pope regarding his primacy will certainly have a claim to being a Papal Anglican, but it will only be those who work to reunite Anglo-Catholics and Roman Catholics whilst respecting their identities who embody what the first Anglican Papalists were trying to do.

John Henry Cardinal Newman and Fr. Edward Bouverie Pusey, pray for us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rave or Rosary? Pub or Prayer?

If there is one thing that continually amazes me about my students is their capacity for joy. By the time that they've reached the sixth-form they've reached the age where they are able to arrange their own entertainment and their own celebrations.

Of course, the latter teenage years have a reputation for excess - and excess of alcohol, excess of food, an excess of video games and an excess of a certain procreative activity. Sometimes our youngsters learn the hard way that the excess of pleasure leads to much in the way of sadness as they become bored with their experiences and seek greater and greater thrills in more and more dangerous tendencies to self destruction.

One may see the effects of this in the life and death of Ryan Dunn, a daredevil and personality in Jackass. It's one thing to risk one's life for the furtherance of human endeavour, but is it right to endanger one's life just for a thrill? In the former category, we have the achievements of the American and Russian astronauts and cosmonauts who have risked their lives to help us understand our human position in space. On the other, we have those who play chicken on a busy motorway. Both claim to be celebrations of living, of this wonderful feeling of being alive, being human, being brilliant. However, one risks the lives and happiness of others unnecessarily.

I suppose I'm a bit of a curmudgeon now. Certainly in my profession, it is easy to see the worst in an activity, to be conscious of dangers and possible outcomes. Schoolmasters have a reputation for being killjoys.

This does point to another side of humanity. There are people who are almost afraid to have fun. One can think of the Venerable Jorge in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose who fears laughter in the monastery because it threatens a lack of control, a level of lawlessness and irreverence. His thesis is that Christ never laughed thus neither should anyone who follows Christ. These days, the time-ravaged old monk would find himself in charge of Elf and Safety.

One thing the Venerable Jorge is right about is that, for the Christian, the point of life is not the pursuit of happiness but the search for God within our lives and within the world around us. Our true happiness is contingent on finding God.

Is it possible that the Venerable Jorge is not so different from Ryan Dunn? Could Jorge be a spiritual daredevil performing dangerous stunts with his own asceticism in what he can deny himself just for the thrill of knowing that he can control himself physically only to kill off part of his own humanity in doing so? Jorge would see this as becoming more like Christ. However it is also true that some Christians of a more epicurean bent believe themselves to becoming more like Christ by enjoying an exuberant atmosphere.

The Benedictine way is always to strike the middle ground. There are feasts and fasts within the Church year and deliberately so. There are times to be silent and times to be noisy. Provided that one observes both seasons fully there is no real problem.

However, it seems that we have forgotten the art of celebrating well. The tendency is to try and prolong that euphoria, that high, for much longer than its natural length. Many of my older students see the aim of drinking as being drunk because it's fun. It's a loss of inhibition - they find inhibition oppressive and drunkenness is seen as a liberation from always having to be in control. I wonder whether anyone can blame them in a world which doesn't always come across as being a cheerful place to live.

I wonder, though, whether they are trying to run away from themselves a little, that they are dissatisfied with being who they are and with their own humdrum existence so they try and blot it out. I think they do themselves a great disservice by doing so as they have so much to offer society as they are. Learning to become oneself as one is meant to be is more liberating than any amount of vodka.

Our society just doesn't celebrate well and veers from one extreme to the other. We either do it to excess with little regard for those around us, or we do it too little and thus lose a capacity for joi de vivre. Lately, I feel rather in the second category. "You will always find me in the kitchen at parties", as the song goes. Am I the only one who finds themselves most alone at some shindig or other surrounded by many people and lots of noise?

It is important to instruct our children in the ways of enjoying life properly. If that means a split lip, grazed knee and muddy T-shirts because of an accident on a bike, then so be it. They need to learn to appreciate that wonderful aphorism "after ecstasy, the laundry." The routine of everyday life must inevitably be resumed after a celebration, but one can carry the memories of that happiness into the days ahead. Celebration is both an art and a skill that need to be learned and some of us need to re-learn this in order to have our capacity for joy.

The Christian's joy is in God and, unlike Jorge, I believe that this joy can be found in this life as well as the next. It just needs to be measured against the two commandments of God to love Him with all facets of our existence and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Strangely, if you think about these, you begin to realise that God's commandments do actually bring forth a capacity for joy in living.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Law and Religion

In my head, I seem to have a quote from someone famous, but I cannot pin it down either to its author or to the exact wording. Essentially, it states that the more legislation the civilisation has, the closer it is to collapse. If anyone can furnish me with the exact quote and its author, I'd be grateful.

It does make perfect sense, though. The more we have to legislate, the more we are saying that we lack a common understanding of what is right and have to rely on our government to supply that common understanding which we may not actually agree with - indeed we may see it as fundamentally wrong and protest and complain to the extent that the government might actually try to limit our ability to complain.

We have evolved into beings which are intrinsically designed to seek community for good reasons. God tells us that it is not good for a man to be alone and He's right as the animal kingdom itself demonstrates. In order to function in society, there must be some restriction on what we can or cannot do so that the interests of all are addressed and respected. This involves a binding of the will.

So what binds our will? Extrinsically, we have laws which are duty bound to keep on pain of punishment. They are determined and agreed upon by the society itself and infringements are met with sanctions to restore order. The more laws that are passed and it is clear that the more that members of that society are not considering the needs of others in the execution of their will. So law forces a binding on us whether or not we agree with it.

We could choose to limit our will ourselves by looking at the society around us and seeing our own part in that society as a duty. The trouble is that the rules we use to regulate that duty may not actually be compatible and thus of course we look for like minds. A common morality produces a common law which people abide by because they know it is right to abide by it. As soon as one begins to question whether one believes that the common law is right then the chaos begins. An intrinsic self-binding - a religion - brings law into being. As soon as that religion is lost, then the law loses its meaning. It is questioned, more laws are brought in to reinforce it which only serve to complicate the issue creating more unrest within the society.

We can see this all over the shop: Abortion, same-sex relationships, assisted suicide, the Equality Bill, spending-cuts, the right to strike. Where in each of these issues is the focus? Is it the good of the community?

More and more I look at society and I see so much disintegration of community. I wonder whether we are at the brink of another change in human existence. Of course, my prayers are for the rejuvenation in personal commitment to a local community if we cannot manage the revival of solid Christianity. I am tempted, though, t0 think the worst and that we are about to enter a time of social and political upheaval to match the moral upheaval through which we pass. Turmoil is natural at the end of an era. I pray that it doesn't go on for longer than is necessary.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Love and Remembrance

It has been a bad year for some of my friends who have lost wives, partners and mothers.

It has to be remembered that the cause of their pain is love. Yet Love is one of the three things that remain always if we believe St Paul's first letter to the Church in Corinth. I know that my friends will always carry the love for those whom they have lost beyond the veil of this life, and they will carry this love to their own passing. But what then? Will that love die with them? And what of others' love for them? Will that pass too. It seems that the love of man is as fleeing in contrast to the love of God Who is eternal.

Sadly, many people believe that all that humans are will pass away into nothing. Even the Bible has the rather final image of "dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return". We are reminded of that every Ash Wednesday. The Bible, of course, puts that verse into perspective, demonstrating that our human endeavours are fleeting and though they may remain for a short time, giving pleasure to folk around, they will pass. The Mona Lisa will eventually disintegrate; St Peter's Square will crumble to dust; even the many copies of the Bible will be torn and scattered away. This too must pass.

Is the love between human beings doomed to similar extinction? One can look at a patient with Alzheimer's disease and wonder how on earth they can love their spouse of many years when they can't remember who on earth they are. Does love exist when memory fails completely?

If love has its origins in us, then the answer is no. In the eyes of humanity, the lives of countless human beings are forgotten.

And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born; and their children after them.

Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach xliv.9

With the death of the last First World War veterans, the world has lost the first hand experience of that awful conflict and the stories of bravery and generosity that came out of the depravity of human pride and anger. Our future is influenced by that past, but never again will it be seen as part of our direct experience. The Second World War will go the same way. So will September 11th 2001.

The emotional content of these events will be preserved by poetry, film archives, and Internet footage, but while they may elicit an emotional response of perhaps great intensity, will they elicit anything more than that? However, neither the emotional response, nor the media which inspire that response will endure.

Love that comes from humanity will not endure because it has no medium to sustain it beyond the confines of a human life.

If one believes that all true love has its source in God, then we have a different situation, for it is this aspect of Divine Love cultivated in human beings which carries the human soul into an existence of a nature that transcends what can be known. Too often, what some perceive as Love is nothing more than a desire to extract from the lover whatever pleases us, or to possess the qualities of the beloved that we lack in ourselves. Divine Love creates us by giving us our very selves and a freedom to be who we really are rather than that which is demanded of us by our peers or even by ourselves - this is a freedom that we can and do reject for ourselves by rejecting God.

In giving of our love to others, we pass on that which is truly Eternal and transmit that which preserves an aspect of ourselves whether or not the other is aware, or even whether we are ourselves aware. We exist because we are loved and we will continue to exist because that Love continues to exist. This is how our loved ones never die for us in this world because they continue to exist as currents stirring within the blood of the Sacred Heart and passions within Christ. When we see Him, we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.

I deeply commiserate with my friends, but I do so with a sure and certain hope of the bodily resurrection from the dead.

[T]hese were merciful men, whose righteousness hath not been forgotten. With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant. Their seed standeth fast, and their children for their sakes. Their seed shall remain for ever, and their glory shall not be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace; but their name liveth for evermore.

Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach xliv.10-14

While members of the Church may eventually be forgotten in Time's relentless and sinuous bore through Existence, they are indelibly engraved in the heart of the Divine and God's Church (a tautology!) will rest in peace and rise in glory.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Whitsunday: Are you receiving me?

Clearly, the answer is yes. I was received this Whitsun Morning into the Anglican Catholic Church. First and foremost, I would draw your attention to my disclaimer. I do not speak on behalf of any church or organisation of which I am a member. For official positions, you must go to the authorities I cite. For my part, I will endeavour to be as factually accurate as I can.

So now I am an Anglican Catholic. There were no tongues of flame above my head. There were no ecstatic tongues, no prophetic utterances, no wild and exuberant behaviour. I was glad, and I expect the bishop and the congregation were glad that I didn't launch into some diatribe in Xhosa at the beginning of Mass.

That's not to say that it couldn't happen.

God is not a tame God and only He knows what He could have got me to do under His influence. Stand in the nave arcing electricity from my fingers like Davros? I suppose it could be argued that perhaps I haven't enough faith for such a remarkable manifestation to occur, or for miracles to be performed. If God wanted that to have happened, then that's what would have happened. Personally, I am thankful that it didn't and that Mass was as edifying and as exquisite as it should be.

The fact remains: God is a dangerous God.

And the Anglican Catholic Church is a dangerous Church, apparently.

Well, that's quite cheering, really. What danger does the Church and Her Groom pose?

It's a very simple answer: Christ is dangerous to the way of life that we would lead without Him. It is this wonderful figure of the itinerant preacher who turns the complacent lives of the world upside down. The lives of unbelievers and believers alike have been affected by His continual and continuous involvement in the affairs of mankind.

To paraphrase Bishop Mead this morning: our lives are dangerous to God. If we choose to live the way we want to live, then we can only go so far as to killing God. Nietzsche demonstrates that so obviously. Divinity and Humanity seem to be so utterly opposed to each other that the one will cause the death of the other.

Except God is not opposed to Humanity, though it cannot be generally said vice versa. God's love for human beings forces Him to take the danger head on. He loses His life but such is the speed of His passing that He crashes through Death out the other side into life. God is not just dangerous to Human Beings, He is dangerous to Death too.

It is no wonder then that we should fear a God Who can risk His life, indeed lose His life, for His Creation for this is a God Who respects no boundaries: Life - Death, Light - Dark, Heaven - Hell, Without - Within. Receiving Him into our lives thus runs so great a risk as to pull us into places which we wouldn't ever have dreamed of going and, further, to turn us into the people we wouldn't ever have dreamed of becoming. He is a threat to the very self that we perceive ourselves to be. But then, is the self that we perceive ourselves to be the person that we would want to be? Can you really honestly answer "yes" to that?

So then, a safe church does not possess the God who threatens to transform us into loving beings. Why then did I feel no different in being received into the Anglican Catholic Church? Perhaps it isn't a dangerous church after all!

All I have to do is to look back at the turmoil of the last few months and realise that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. He is a loving God and while He will always surprise and even shock me, He won't contradict Himself, nor will He allow me to be destroyed. My transformation has happened, is happening and will happen at His pace, and I pray that I may always will it so and that I may have the purity of heart to work with that Divine Will.

How dangerous is your Church?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Women "Bishops" and Catholicity: Another Response to Fr Clatworthy

It's been a little while that I've been meaning to respond to Fr Jonathan Clatworthy's paper on "Catholicity". You may remember I tackled one of his papers once before. I haven't really had much time or inclination to tackle this second paper in the past year. As I've left the Church of England to its own devices, much of the need for me to respond to this paper has been eliminated. However, from the point of view of the Continuing Anglicans, there is an interest at making a response to the paper.

Again, I've yet to see better theologians than myself tackle it, so I'll have another go. I think that this will be the last time that I will mention this subject because there is literally no longer a case for me to answer. I am now free of the need to defend the beliefs of the Catholic Church from within the CofE.

Fr. Clatworthy sums up the argument of Anglo-Catholics to the Ordination as:

  1. The 'true Church' does not ordain women;

  2. The Anglican Church is part of the 'true Church';

  3. The Anglican Church should not ordain women.

He then goes on to dismantle the premise 1 by attempting to that a 'true Church' is not well-defined nor visible nor evidently established by God.

He makes the claim that

"Our suspicions are accentuated by the fact that New Testament scholars, far from supporting Gore's claims, find precious little evidence that Christ showed an interest in founding a church at all, and insufficient evidence that there is a continuous line of succession from the Apostles to the bishops of today."

This is interesting, as earlier in his paper he says:

"Some of the New Testament epistles express a late first century movement which scholars describe as 'early Catholicism'. The Greek term for 'universal' is 'kath holos', and our word 'catholic' is derived from it.

Now this does suggest a slight inconsistency here. If the Lord shows little interest in founding a Church, why is there a Church? Why does He talk about building His Church on rock? Why does He talk about being a good shepherd having a flock and then go and tel St Peter to tend and feed His sheep. Of course, modern New Testament Scholars are very good at presenting their opinions. We should really let the facts speak for themselves.

Now, it seems to me that Fr. Clatworthy is very good at missing things that he has already mentioned. Let's take the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, with or without the controversial filioque. It is interesting that apart from this one word, Orthodox, Roman and Anglican Catholics affirm this very creed at the heart of their teaching. We may disagree over the filioque (though there seems to have been quite a convergence in philosophy over that in recent years) but still we see, absolutely inherent in that creed "I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". He might also like to take into account the lists of successions of bishops, and the fact that there are bishops is testament to that succession.

Far from making the sole definition of 'true Church' based just on Apostolic Succession, Anglo-Catholics have used the entirety of the Creed. This idea of the necessity of Apostolic Succession is ingrained in all Churches which hold to this Creed. Fr. Clatworthy can certainly look at the differences between Orthodox, Roman and Anglican Catholic Churches but he misses their obvious similarities of doctrine and their desire for unity. The Orthodox Church recognises Anglican Orders; Roman Catholics have sought dialogue with the Anglicans with a view to unity - what might have happened if ECUSA hadn't ordained women in the 1970s - and this has continued in ARCIC.

Of all the three Churches, it is the Anglican Church that is the most split because it falls into the categories of those who believe in Apostolic Succession like the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches do (see, for example, The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 857-870) and those who don't. There are those who believe in the authority of bishops and those who don't, yet still there are bishops in the CofE. If "very few - and that even included such figures as William Laud - were willing to see bishops as necessary for the constitution of the church" why were bishops re-introduced at the Restoration of the Monarchy? It is the division between Anglicans where the bone of contention lies and Fr. Clatworthy tries to deflect that attention onto the divisions between the catholic Churches. The divisions are nor the same. Anglo-Catholics are part of the Catholic Church; those who ordain women as priests are not.

If a church refuses to accept the Nicene Creed as it was received by the Church, then surely whether they choose to "ordain" women or not is immaterial - they do not do so as part of the Catholic Church. The Orthodox, Roman and Anglican Catholic Churches have always said that the Church has no authority to ordain women. In alluding to the validity of the fictional female priest from Toxteth, Fr. Clatworthy has assumed that which he wants to prove i.e. women can be ordained validly by the Church. If his assumption is wrong, then he might as well be replicating Bertrand Russell's proof that if 1=2 then he is the Pope.

It is quite clear that Fr. Clatworthy does not have the same understanding of sacramental validity as Catholics. The question has only really arisen in the Anglican Church because the Catholicism of the Anglican church has been compromised with women. It is not the Church who determines the conditions of validity - it is God. It is true that because God determines validity or not, there is no need for Anglo-Catholics to appeal to the 'true Church'. However, Christians look to each other to affirm what they believe to have received from God. This is how the Ecumenical Councils worked. This is how the Church repulsed Arianism and the other heresies. The Church defined the doctrine based upon what they received from God according to Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Perhaps Fr. Clatworthy does not believe in the infallibility of the Church. How then does he know that he, as a Christian is right or is this a case of "it may be true for you, but it isn't for me"?

As I said earlier, I am trying to close this chapter now as there is no reason for me to argue with anyone. I have found myself a place where this whole question will not come up and, although I hope to remain in dialogue with many Christian friends, I hope they will understand that our differences come from completely different integrities. Often we seem to be talking past one another. If so, let's stop talking and start praying together instead.