Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Circuits in the Swimming Pool

I received this a comment to a previous post. I didn't publish it there on the grounds that it didn't fit the post to which it was appended. The poster remained anonymous, which is a shame.

The big national Pilgrimage to Walsingham organised by the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham took place today in the wooden barn-like structure that serves the Latin Rite Catholics as a church. As a rather disillusioned ex-Anglo-Catholic [now a traditionalist Catholic] I was looking forward to it and particuarly to see what elements of Anglican Patrimony and customs might be
incorporated into the Mass and procession. I was greatly isappointed. It was concelebrated in modern Roman style in nylon matching chasubles, the rite of Mass was the current New Rite of Paul VI with the proper sung to Missa de Angelis, full throatedly (so not very R.C.). There was one Anglican hymn Immortal Invisible and at the Offertory a rather slushly worship-song: Gifts of Bread and Wine. In all, a typical reasonably High Church Modern Roman Catholic service. The brochure was covered and filled with pictures of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a number of references to Don Gobbi's Visions, and a Day of Divine Mercy. In the afternoon there was a weather-damaged procession to the Anglican shrine and a Sprinkling with Holy Well water took place. Alas, during this we were treated to a young lady singing a modern Roman Catholic worship song with a guitar. I left greatly disappointed wondering what elements of Anglican heritage, the "Patrimony" were going to be brought by these ex-Anglicans to Holy Church. They all seemed to be good, decent, dutiful modern Roman Catholic priests. What is the point of the Ordinariate ? Can someone explain ?

So why have I published this post? Largely because it is a cry from the heart. Perhaps, then, I am getting sentimental in my old age? Well, simply put, I know what it's like to be ignored and this is a cry from one who has become accustomed to being ignored by those rolling merrily on a bandwagon. That's not to say that I agree with the findings of my anonymous commentator. I was not on this Walsingham Pilgrimage and therefore cannot comment on the details mentioned here. If anyone can, then please use the ComBox provided.

One of the reasons I chose the Continuum over the Roman Catholic Church is because the Roman Catholic Parishes in my area were very much like the Parish that I spent 4 years trying to leave. Why swim the Tiber if the experience is no different from doing circuits of the Anglican Communion Municipal Swimming Pool?

This is one of the major factors in why I chose the Continuum over going to Rome either in the Ordinariate or through personal conversion. I saw no point in exchanging one Parish for another which was identical except for claims to following the Pope. What the Continuum offered me was different.

Well, I say different; I mean that the Continuum offered me nothing new whatsoever. In fact what it did offer me was the opportunity to rediscover what I had lost in the CofE - reverence and dignity, the Pax which was truly pacific rather than the Peace in which peace was destroyed in the ensuing melée. The Continuum offered me doctrinal stability and a greater degree of transparency than I found in either the CofE or the Roman Catholic Church. The latter two were adept at saying what the party line was and yet crossing their fingers when it came to toeing the party line. Those in the Roman Catholic Church were just as ready to cross their fingers when they declare their belief in Papal Infallibility and Transubstantiation as the CofE were in declaring their assent to the XXXIX articles and the Catholic creeds (especially the four marks of the Church!).

Of course, one might say that the Continuum is being as dishonest when it comes to its existence as a viable expression of the Church and will cite the many splits and separations as well as the veritable Alphabet Soup of Continuing Anglican Jurisdictions. Actually, I find that all the Continuing Anglicans that I’ve spoken with admit the situation quite readily and know that it is far from ideal. One can see that steps are being taken to remedy the situation: the APA (Anglican Province in America) has announced its acceptance of intercommunion with the ACA (Anglican Church in America). This was relayed via the Rt Rev Brian Marsh, president of the House of Bishops of the ACA. There are other such initiatives with UECNA and other bodies. This is not what I call dishonesty.

However, the fact of the matter is that, politically speaking, the Continuum is very new, not really more than 40 years old. That sort of puts the political situation in some degree of similitude to the 1560s and 1570s after the Anglo-Roman Schism. Our history books tell us how volatile the situation was in that period and it took some time to settle down, indeed perhaps it has never done really so.

Whilst the Anglican Continuum is doctrinally old and politically new, the CofE is politically old and doctrinally new and this is perhaps why it can do little from the fragmentation and haemorrhage of members that have produced the gloomy figures mentioned in General Synod. The Roman Catholic Church is itself finding problems in that there is a discrepancy between what the Western grass roots believe and want to believe and what the Magisterium pronounces as right belief.

This is where I do offer what little advice that I have to my anonymous commentator. Have patience!

If the Continuum is new at forty years old and is still in the process of formation, then the same is more than true of the Ordinariate. It is going to take some good time perhaps several decades for the expression of Anglican Patrimony to become apparent. However, the Anonymous Commentator has a point, and it’s a point I’ve touched upon earlier. What the Anonymous Commentator has just described is my objection to the phrase “former Anglican”. If the Ordinariate is populated by “former Anglicans” then what makes it different from being Roman Catholic? Another commentator, Jakian Thomist, whose comments are most assiduous and welcome, made the point that if by “Anglican” we mean some religious institution that accepts lay presidency, women clergy, practising homosexual clergy, atheist clergy, stout and pizza for the offertory, Ibiza-style rave Masses and communion for dogs, then the phrase “former Anglican” is reasonable though technically inaccurate. For that would mean that I, and many others, never were Anglican in the first place!

It is going to take time for what Anglican Patrimony there is in the Ordinariate to become apparent, and that’s the big challenge that faces the new Monsignors and the Anglicanorum Cœtibus hierarchy. They will have to convince Anglo-Catholics who will potentially form the second and future waves into the Ordinariate of just how they are preserving that Patrimony. While some may be happy to become Roman Catholics, others will be looking for that distinction. Others will not want to find themselves doing circuits in an episcopal piscine! The Anonymous Commentator is certainly justified in his/her comments that surely there should be something of the Anglican Patrimony apparent. One would hope that sixties folk-singer types have not found their way into a valid expression of the famous Anglican Choral Tradition!

The Ordinariate will have to show what it is that gives it a different parochial flavour from Roman Catholicism and what benefits there are from accepting the fullness of the Roman Doctrine as supplying what Anglicanism lacks.

Likewise, the Continuum has a lot of work to do if it wants to convince Anglo-Catholics in the CofE that it has what is necessary to preserve Anglican Doctrine and to sustain a stable environment in which parishes and communities can thrive. At present, the Continuum is small, but it is growing.

However, neither of these options may be sufficiently convincing at present, though it is difficult to see how remaining in the CofE is going to be tenable for folk who follow the doctrine that the Anglican Church has always until recently followed, namely the Catholic Faith. The grass is still the same green colour on all sides, though in some quarters the grass is brown and withering. It is going to take some time for the differences to become manifest. I therefore urge my Anonymous Commentator not to lose heart but to ensure that their views are heard, provided that they are couched in such a way as will build up the Ordinariate and offer support to its realisation of Anglicanism within the Holy See.

As for those of us in the Continuum, we must not lose heart either but bring plenty of ropes with which we can tie together catamarans, coracles, barges and barques and be careful with our steering so that, in these times of turbulence we can draw upon each other on a real river, rather than a swimming pool.


Anonymous said...

"This is not what I call dishonesty."

This comes from a bishop whose church in 2007 solemnly swore they affirmed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, accepted Vatican I and II, and petitioned for corporate reunion...


but when the pope actually responded and the details came out (the ex-Catholic clergy would not be accepted as clergy, that divorced and remarried laity, clergy, and bishops (yes, bishops), would have to apply for an annulment or would not be received, much less ordained) then suddenly many were not so interested in Catholic reunion, and thought it best to just pretend the whole thing never happened.

It is my bitter experience that continuing churches in the US are basically congregationalists that have little concern for anything outside their four walls. I would not recommend it for the spiritual health of anyone.

Warwickensis said...

I'm afraid I cannot possibly comment on this situation, suffice it to say that I count one of the architects of the Portsmouth petition as a personal friend. He was quite candid about the potential problems in the U.S. Something is happening there, though it is taking time to sort out. I can't really call this dishonesty until this becomes apparent after the turbulence has happened.

As for the United Kingdom, the Continuing Church is far from congregational. I've visited several parishes and all are fiercely loyal to their bishop yet preserve the "regional variations" that Anglicanism tolerates. I also see a great concern here about what is going on in other countries and other jurisdictions. Perhaps this is an English phenomenon?

I can't really see how a Church with a bishop and a chapter of priests can be called congregational. St Cyprian calls that a Church.

Anonymous said...

"I can't really see how a Church with a bishop and a chapter of priests can be called congregational."

I thought the same thing until my encounters with continuing Anglicans. You really have to talk with these folks to understand how they think. One local leader commented that the bishops were like the queen of England. It is nice that she exists, and every year or so, you trot her out on formal occasions, wearing the right costume, etc., but she does nothing of real importance. The same with the bishops - they have no real authority - the congregation owns the property, and can disaffiliate with a parish vote if they don't like what is happening. That is exactly what happened post-Anglicanorum Coetibus in many ACA churches, but it doesn't have to be something as dramatic as all that - you have a disagreement with your bishop, but no problem, you either ignore him, or if he gives you trouble, you vote to move into another schismatic Anglican group. Consequently, the bishops have to pander to this new reality - and have shown that they are willing to change their positions and sworn beliefs to keep their congregations.

The bishop is there just to give a little bit of legitimacy and history, but is in no way really necessarily.

One priest said that the congregation should just "declare" that their seminarian was a deacon since the bishops was taking so long to educate him. Presto!

Given that congregational ownership of property is the name of the game, it is no wonder that we have started seeing "independent Anglican" churches set up.

Its my way, or the highway. Total autonomy, and complete independence from any one out there that will "tell me what to do - over my dead body". You think I exaggerate, but I am quoting. Not a good place to be!

Warwickensis said...

I'm sorry, but your experiences of the Continuing Anglican milieu and mine are markedly different.

I would have to say that your experiences of bishops being either ornamental or tyrannical despots are not peculiar to the Anglican Continuum.

This is true in the Anglican Communion where the Bishops are just mouthpieces of prevailing modern society made politically acceptable, and it is also true in the Roman Catholic Church where lip-service is being paid to a very traditional and learned Pope but the local bishops run the show and try as best as they can to ignore what they perceive as his "retrogressive" ideas. The majority of Roman Catholic laity cross their fingers when it comes to the infallibility of the Pope and this I have seen with my own eyes.

The TAC stands in a bit of a tough spot with regard to the Ordinariate. It has certainly pitted bishop against bishop. Dishonesty is a withholding of the truth, but if no-one knows what the truth is (yet, and they themselves admit this) they cannot be accused of being dishonest.

Neither I, nor my comrades in the ACC deny the fragmentary nature of Continuing Anglicanism, but I do see attampts being made to address what is a very serious issue. One can only look at the efforts of Archbishops Haverland and Robinson in trying to bring their two jurisdictions into a higher level of concordance.