Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Anglo-Catholicism; acquiring the Capital C.

Well, the Holy Father has done it again; a characterful and decisive intervention that simply cuts through the nonsense to achieve a good end, God willing. Finally, part of the Anglican Communion has been grafted back onto the tree, and becomes a Church, with a capital C.

The first interesting thing was the way this new initiative was announced—by text message. On Monday evening, journalists in Rome received a message on their phones to look at the briefings page on the Vatican website, which had only just been updated. Simply there was to be an announcement concerning the Anglicans. Speculation, of course, immediately began, but there wasn't much time to get anything out before the meeting itself. This very short notice prevented all the hyping-up and sabotaging-in-advance that might have taken place.

The next interesting thing is that the forthcoming document is to take the form of an Apostolic Constitution. Even Summorum Pontificum was only a Motu Proprio. The form of Apostolic Constitution will give it very heavy clout: the Novus Ordo Missæ was established in this way.

I read on Damian Thompson's blog this morning that Archbishop Rowan Williams (and probably Cardinal Kaspar too) is fuming over this. Actually, I'm not so sure about Kaspar, remembering his intervention at Synod a few months ago. In the Archbishop's case, this is, I suppose, understandable. Having himself failed to broker an acceptable solution for Anglo-Catholics in his jurisdiction, he has had the carpet pulled out from under him and faces the loss from the Church of England of at least some of the Catholic ballast that might have been crucial in preventing the CofE becoming entirely a liberal protestant sect. As the Telegraph put it, having failed to create a third province for the CofE, the Pope of Rome has done it for him: Anglo-Catholics will have everything they want (on paper, at least—more in a minute) except communion with Canterbury. Had Rowan Williams behaved with a little of the (albeit risky) decisiveness of Pope Benedict, he might himself have produced this particular rabbit out of the hat, and now be smiling. Not his fault: he simply doesn't have the statesmanship necessary, nor the personal authority to override the warring factions in Synod and Convocation. Nor, I suspect, the serenity of conscience simply to let the opposition snarl and grumble.

Rowan complains that he was not consulted, and simply informed a fortnight before the announcement. Well, the discussions were never made with the CofE, or even the Anglican Communion. On paper, they don't even seem to be concerned. The arrangement was made with the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), a body led by, embarrassingly, a former Catholic priest, John Hepworth, who is now the Archbishop of the Australian Anglican Catholic Church, a subset, I suppose of the TAC. Officially, there is no reason why the Archbishop of Canterbury should have been involved: it concerns a discussion with a splinter of the Anglican Communion that broke away years ago. But of course it does concern him indirectly, because, presumably, lots of people who are under his authority will want to join this group as presenting the best solution to the nasty mess the Anglican Communion have got themselves into.
Frankly, I think the Pope has done him a favour. This will clarify things enormously in the CofE. They will now be free to get on with women bishops, gay bishops, meaningful dialogue with Vanuatu head-hunters, and whatever they like, without having to stop to complain at the Anglo Catholics holding them back and preventing the Spirit blowing where she will. At a blow, the main schismatic problem of the Church of England is, if not solved, at least considerably ameliorated. Now, Rowan Williams can blame the Pope for splitting the Church of England; all he has to do is sit back and enjoy the credit for pulling together the remainder (which will, of course, be the overwhelming majority), who will be happier, more united, and grateful to him.

So, are large numbers of Anglicans about to join in?

Forward in Faith are fortuitously forgathering this weekend, I gather, so we will no doubt be hearing lots soon. A guarded footnote on Fr Hunwicke's blog concerning the Society of the Holy Cross, an Anglo-Catholic clerical brotherhood, suggests that the very nature of their existing resolutions implies very great interest indeed in whatever may happen. The Flying Bishop of Richborough has suggested that people should take from now until the feast of the Chair of St Peter (February 22nd) to have a long think and a pray about this—good advice.
This will clearly interest 'papalist' anglicans like Fr Hunwicke, and no doubt many others downwards. But we must not ignore several issues that may yet prevent them joining.
1) Never, ever, forget the fundamentally congregationalist aspect of Anglicanism. If an Anglican priest cannot bring his church building, he is unlikely to bring (much of) his congregation.
2) Having joined the Roman Communion, they will be out of communion with Canterbury. They will not be in communion with both: this will probably prevent the conversion of buildings to the Roman communion.
3) There are a lot of Anglo-Catholic clergy who live with boyfriends. Those who seek communion with Rome will be expected to be celibate or be married to one woman.
4) Liturgical pluralism is unlikely to be permitted. There will be one rite (possibly with a BCP and an English Missal form, plus maybe the possibility of the Novus Ordo) and people will be expected to use it.
5) Who is going to pay the clergy? You can't expect established Catholic Dioceses to support a possibly very large influx of priests with wives and children without getting any benefit of work from them, since they will have their own interests and congregations. I very much doubt that Synod will issue any form of compensation, but only pension. The clergy will have to be supported by their own people, and if the people are not great in number, this may be difficult. On the other hand, they will presumably no longer have to pay the crippling levies now exacted by the Church Commissioners, so there will be more money around. I suppose this means that it will work as long as a priest can retain the loyalty of his people.
6) I am sure that a lot of Roman Catholic parishes will be very supportive, and if the new, truly, Anglo-Catholic congregations lack a home, they can no doubt share the local Roman Catholic building. Any around here would be welcome to use my buildings. But this will be traumatic for many.
No doubt there are more thoughts here.

This new move may, of course, be of interest to many in other strange situations. Sometimes this will not be easy, either.
1) There are those who have been Catholic priests but become Anglicans who now see a way to return to communion without having to part from their wives and bairns. John Hepworth's example, presumably, will encourage them that there will be a process of forgiving and forgetting.
2) There will be those who became Catholics, even priests, in the wake of the 1992 decision, but then returned to the Anglican Communion. I expect they will be in the situation of 1) above, but this is not certain. There is at least one case I know of someone who has shuttled back and forth and eventually ended up a Catholic priest in the West country, so it ought to be all right.
3) Then there will be those who were Catholic priests and left the ministry to marry, remaining as Catholic laymen. Will they be allowed to join and reactivate as clergy, or will they remain on the sidelines, grumbling and unhappy? Is it necessary that potential clergy have an Anglican pedigree, in other words?

I think it unlikely that the Church Commissioners will permit the alienation of Anglican property to this new Uniate structure. Partly this will be on the basis of 'why should we?', and partly simply hard-nosed business sense. They would probably permit the groups to buy their own buildings (churches, halls, rectories), but this is going to take a great deal of money, and, as I suggested above, money is something that there isn't going to be a lot of. Perhaps the Redundant Churches Commission might be able to help.

And finally, there may well be trauma at a definitive separation from the state, of no longer being part of the Established Church. No longer will clergy be able to claim that 'I am the pastor of all people in this place' or 'I have access to every home, because I represent the Established Church'—a claim that I always found annoying and faintly ridiculous, none the less so because it has been sincerely and sometimes passionately held.

Finally, how will this affect the Roman Catholic Church in England? That remains to be seen. Probably it will affect us very little. Some of our congregations will enjoy going to Evensong occasionally, if there is a church that has the resources to do it, and I hope that there will be flexibility between the rites, so that clergy of each may help each other out. There may be some church-sharing. Unquestionably, some liberals will be spitting feathers right now, because the conservative ballast from the CofE has been lifted across to the barque of Peter, further strengthening the course Pope Benedict has been steering. I can foresee lots of Angry of Purley letters to The Tablet next week, and lots of welcome in the Catholic Herald, if I may put it like that. Time will show how much cross-over there will be; most of it will depend on how large the take-up is of Pope Benedict's offer. If the groups will be small and scattered, as in the already existing Anglican Use provision in the US, then the impact will be very minimal. If most towns have a fully Anglo-Catholic church (I suppose we will soon be able to write Church, with a capital C), then you can expect quite a bit of pew-hopping. So much remains to be seen.

I am confident that, like Summorum Pontificum, this will prove a great blessing for the Church; in the same way, if there is substantial take-up, this, too, should exert positive gravitational pull on the wider English-speaking Church. And it will make me very happy to be in communion with many of whom I am fond.

A useful article here, on Fr Tim's blog.

19 comments:

Steven said...

There is another category of people who are left in bizarre positions - Anglican Clergy who became Catholic laymen. Do we suddenly gained the faculty to function?

No! I think the Bishops Conference of Low Week '92 may still be the best way forward. Individual sumbission the the See of Peter is the cleanest solution.

Sussex Catholic said...

As to the question of Church property can you envisage a local Catholic Ordinary who is faced with the prospect of closing a parish and selling off the land because of lack of vocations actually offering the site to an Anglo-Catholic parish to use for itself? I can think of several Polish and Ukrainian parishes which are housed in former Anglican churches.

Peter Porter said...

In the torrent of journalism and comment this decision is likely to receive, I warmly congratulate you on the best, most realistic, informed and comprehensive article so far published. Your analysis of the difficulties is particularly valuable. Nontheless, I agree with Steven in his view that the best way forward to submission to the Holy See is individual reception. Residual Anglo-Catholicism is no longer the coherent body that it was and many of the laity who attend Anglo-Catholic services do so either beacause they like the vicar or enjoy decorated worship but have no clarity of belief.

The problem of clerics with boyfriends is, alas, disproved by some of the gay Anglican clergymen who converted after 1992 and now, as Catholic priests, still enjoy putting their toes in murky waters from time to time on the basis of what they have discovered existing among some Catholic clergy. Unwelcome as that fact is, in honesty in needs to be addressed.

berenike said...

I find it very difficult to understand how attachment to Anglicanism could have prevented people from becoming Catholics if they realised they weren't. I can understand that one might find it so "irrationally", through weakness (and I don't mean that in a condemnatory or superior sense, but in the sense that I see myself not do as I know I ought), but it seems to have been a matter of principle. And the Fr Hunwickes baffle me more than any others: he crowed with such delight over the sacrilegious "stealing" of orders he described.

It's all very strange. But I think the Pope has a marvellously sure sense of what the Church is, and think he has done well.

St John's, Horsham said...

Marvellous post. Thank you. Can you clarify what happens in the States re 'Anglican Use'? Presumably, they use Anglican liturgies which are appropriately 'revised' to be in accord with Catholic doctrine?

Charles Ryder said...

Brilliant post Father. Perhaps the most even-handed appraisal I have seen concerning the practical questions implicit in this whole event.

Little Black Sambo said...

A very gracious post, Father.

Peter Porter said...

I have not met Fr Hunwicke and know none who knew him in his various incarnations. I enjoy his website and admire his learning. I realise that, since retirement, he has made an impression in obscurantist Oxford circles. He embodies an almost vanished type of Anglo-Catholic cleric who acquired an immensity of learning without being able to take the fruits to their logical conclusion. He must be one of the last, if not the last, of the breed. But, unlike them and their life-long burial in remote rural livings, he has sailed the boats in the Church of England and accommodated himself wherever he has served - whether the moderate Anglo-Catholicism of Lancing or the plats de jour of a distant group of Devon parishes where congregationalism rules.

But objectively he has only been able to apply his obscurantism freely within the precarious confines of a retired Anglican clergyman who lives in a vicarage in return for duty at what happily chances to be a beautifully furnished, if sparsely attended, pioneer Anglo-Catholic church which has long lost any pastoral justification for existence. There he can do as he pleases, hence the melange of liturgical idiosycracy on offer on a daily basis. There he can broadcast his learning and elegiac opinions to the world via information technology.

For clerics like him, the Holy Father's invitation to move on to a pastoral provision (to adopt Anglican terminology) for Catholic-minded Anglicans within the Church is going to be the acid test of his integrity. Come in, says the Holy Father, bring what you can retrieve and I shall bless it if it conforms to truth. But will he, and others not so learned as him but just as comfortable, be willing to make the sacrifice and move from a Baroquised medieval church into a Catholic scout hut?

How marvellous it would be to see St Thomas's, St Mary and St John' and St Barnabas', Oxford (not much hope of St Mary Mag's these days), even the sublime monastic premises of St Stephen's House, reconciled to the Church and made freely available for sanitized Anglo-Catholic worship. But is this likely, not least because will there be enough Oxford Anglo-Catholics left to support them. And would many well-established Oxford lay converts want to return to these shrines after getting used to worshipping at St Aloysius and the line of Catholic halls of residence in St Giles going on to the river? There is already something for everybody in Oxford Catholic life without adding these exquisite mausolea to the choice.

Then comes Pusey House. I think the entire Anglo-Catholic remnant could easily move in to the chapel and still leave a little room for others. If Fr Hunwicke has to give up his vicarage I doubt if there would be much room for him in the residential quarters as these are occupied by St Cross but, living on a pension as he does, he might be able to rent his own accomodation? Who knows?

I am not picking on him gratuitously as an individual but using him as an illustration of the dilemma that the Holy Father's scheme is likely to create for those who most desire (or perhaps do not actually desire?) it. The pickle of current Anglo-Catholicism as you well identify, Fr Finnegan, is going to take a great deal of resolution. But the Oxford microcosm can be applied to many other English cities and other benefices and clergymen - retired, married or single - and I think it offers a useful illustration of the problem as a whole. What, I wonder, will be the Archbishop-Elect of Birmingham's attitude to this problem, and also that of the present Bishop of Oxford? Whatever emerges is going to be a headache.

MC Man said...

Surely one should become a Catholic because of belief in the Church,not because the C of E would not allow the Traditional Anglicans to have their own parishes with only male clergy and flying Bishops etc etc.If their demands were met by the C of E how many would still consider becoming Catholics?

Mater mari said...

Brilliant and thoughtful as ever, Father. Thank you.

gemoftheocean said...

High church Anglicans/Episcopals have long puzzled me -- i.e. what kept them from swimming the Tiber en masse a long time ago -- particularly over the issue of the Eucharist itself. In other words, how can belief in "the Real Presence" be optional? Will they accept Mary as the Immaculate Conception with all that implies?

Not to rain on any parades, and I hope this all turns out well, but what does the average high-church anglican think of birthcontrol, ditto abortion? Do they realize that they will all have to be confirmed? [We have enough cafeteria Catholics as it is!]

Has it really sunk in that when they visit somewhere else, that doesn't have an "anglican rite" use they can't fulfill a Sunday obligation by attending a low church Anglican service?

The Anglicans have been bleeding high-church off to Catholics (and in some places the orthodox) -- but has it sunk in that eventually tea with the Vicar's wife won't be something that's going to happen?

I think the average Anglican priest converting gets all these implications ... I'm not so sure about Joe Toff who just doesn't particularly like women priests or gay bishops.... i.e. more a high-church Anglican by social convention, rather than conviction.

It was the Lambeth Conference, in 1930 that was the FIRST relgious body to approve the use of artificial B.C.

BJR said...

A very interesting piece of writing.

I would have thought it probably best to 'wait and see' what happens. I rather doubt that there will be many people from the UK involved. The majority of Anglicans who objected to the ordination of women crossed the Tiber a decade or more ago.

Overall the growth sector in the Anglican Church has been in the evangelical wing and I suspect that growth, and shift away from 'papalist' Anglicanism will be actually bolstered by yesterday's news.

Malcolm Kemp said...

I congratulate you, Father, on an excellent, thorough appraisal of the situation so far as it can currently be appraised.

I did meet Fr Hunwicke earlier in the summer when I attneded a weekday Mass at his church and I greatly enjoyed the experience. He is, indeed, one of a dying breed of very knowledgable Anglo Catholic priests whose abilities have been wasted because they don't quite "fit in".

We must wait and see what happens and at the same time pray very hard on both sides of the Tiber. On the face of it (speaking as as "papalist" Anglo Catholic layman who has worshipped and provided choir and organ music in the Anglo Catholic churches of Brighton for many decades) it is more than I ever dared hope for and I am optimistic.

I hope there will be demonstrations of real charity on all sides at basic grass roots levels. Some of the comments made by (R)C laity about Anglicans on some blogs are not too good on charity and Christian tolerance and not all (R)C priests who write blogs are as kind about us as you are, Father - especially locally. That said, a lot of Anglicans are just as unkind about Catholics and this is equally regrettable. In both cases I am sure it is down to ignorance and fear.

I am extremely grateful to Pope Benedict for what he has done this week. I hope we can all, on both sides of the Tiber, pray and lsiten to the Holy Spirit in a spirit of charity, penitence and humility.

berenike said...

Malcolm, I am really interested. Why would people convert now and not before? I spent a lot of time last year reading "papalist" Anglo-Catholic blogs, and was completely baffled. I know the Pope knows better than me, I am perfectly happy with his judgement. Tell me more!

Norah said...

Rowan complains that he was not consulted, and simply informed a fortnight before the announcement.

I have read in other places that only two days notice was given. Which is correct do you know?

becket said...

The rest of the Anglican Communion (liberals)should face the fact that they are no longer a "Communion". And just let all Anglicans decide whether they wish to be in communion with either Rome or Constantinople (with Apostolic Succession). Or be part of secular society. As for the Church property, it would be better to let the departing parish have it. What are they going to do. Sell it to the Muslims or just let it rot away!. That is real smart and Christian!.

Pastor in Valle said...

Sorry, Norah, I don't know.

chicago said...

I worry that Cardinal Levada has mistaken the way the C of E functions for the way the Episcopal Church functions in the USA. In the latter there is no 'Anglo-Papalist' tradition to speak of. In the UK there is. But will its members want to abandon their cherished pick-and-mix liturgical styles and their long held determination to ignore their bishop? How will it feel for them to subject to some sort of ecclesial accountability instead of being high church congrgationalists? And, of course, the last thing they will want is an Anglican Rite.
(So why go now if they have not gone before? you might well ask.)

The Cardinal said...

The Pope's decision is profoundly shocking. Whatever happened to the ecclesiology of communion? Is he really in his dotage now, or just very badly advised?

I think I'll go and re-read Tillard's "Church of Churches".