Saturday, 31 October 2009

Baptism, baptizers and Baptists

I have been thinking recently upon Baptism. I love baptizing; it is one of the most unalloyedly joyful sacraments (except when the catechumen is in the terrible twos; too young to know that he or she doesn't want to be baptized, but plenty old enough to know that he doesn't want his hair wet).

I saw a baptism on Shoreham Beach the other day; a group of black people in nighties were in the sea. When I noticed what they were about, I stopped my walk and remained on the beach out of respect for the Sacrament until it was over and the figures emerged from the waves, shivering in the sharp wind. I gave a surreptitious blessing and went on my way.

Here in Shoreham there is a sort of blow-up pool that circulates among the free churches; I think it belongs to the Baptists. The Baptists hold that for validity, baptism has to be by full immersion, being let down backwards, the formula uttered being either that of the Trinitarian invocation or some other symbol of the faith of the candidate. Here's one account:

Baptists insist upon baptism by full immersion, the mode Baptists believe Jesus received when he was baptized by John the Baptist. The candidate is lowered in water backwards while the baptizer (a pastor or any baptized believer under the authority of the local Baptist church) invokes the Trinitarian phrase found in Matthew 28:19 or other words concerning a profession of faith. Baptism by immersion is a representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

For purposes of accepting transfer of membership from other churches, Baptist churches only recognize baptism by full immersion as being valid.[3] Some Baptist churches will recognize "age of accountability" baptisms by immersion performed in other Christian churches of "like faith and order," while others only recognize baptisms performed in Baptist churches. Baptists are known for re-baptizing converts to their faith who were previously baptized as infants or small children. Because of this, the first Baptist congregations were dubbed "Anabaptists" which means re-baptizers.

from here.

There are several curious points here. What does validity mean in this context? If the ceremony cannot convey grace, or change the state of the person, then what means validity? Secondly, I'm not sure that I go along entirely with this total immersion theory. I know it's fashionable right now, and that the East does so, and presumably has done so for a long time. More in a minute. Third, the alternative invocation clearly would invalidate a baptism from our point of view. I had always thought that Baptist baptism was pretty watertight. As it were.

Back to total immersion. Is is really the ancient practice? Consider those ancient baptisteries that have been dug up in the East. They really aren't large enough for a person to lie fully prone, and especially not without bumping his head. The sole argument that total immersion is the only Biblical method comes from the baptism of our Lord, that he went into and came out of the water. (Mt 3:16).

Okay, I'm prepared to accept that certainly people went into and came out of the water, as out from a tomb. Ancient fonts have steps. But think of those ancient representations of our Lord's baptism, such as at Ravenna. In all cases he stands up to the waist in water, while John pours water over his head. In other words, the baptism is by affusion, not immersion. Just as we do, in fact, except that we don't make people stand up to the undies in water. My suspicion is that this is the ancient universal practice, given the small size of floor-fonts and the iconographic evidence. Is there any ancient evidence for full-immersion baptism, other than in presumption?

This Easter, God willing, we should have no fewer than nine baptisms, seven of them adult or teenaged. Do say a prayer for our wonderful catechumens.

By the way, should you wish to attempt a full-immersion baptism of a baby boy, be very aware that the shock of the cold baptism very often causes the child to urinate forcibly. I have known a couple of cases of this, causing embarrassment to some and amusement to others. I have never risked this.

Mr Angry of Purley

Yup, as I predicted, the air is blue on the letters page of The Tablet this week. There isn't a single letter in support of Pope Benedict's hand of friendship to Anglo-Catholics. The editorial is pretty unpleasant, too.
On the other hand, there is a very good letter by Fr Dermot Power concerning the debate between the African Archbishop and Anne Widdecombe on the one hand and Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens on the other. Fr Power (whose father came from the same town in Ireland as mine) draws pertinent attention to the Catholic Media Office. Why were Miss Widdecombe and his Excellency left as the only champions of the Church in such a high-profile debate? Apparently, no English bishop was willing to take up the gauntlet. Actually, I don't blame them; I'm no good in such a forum either, but surely the Media Office should have been on the ball, and could have found some able apologist, of ability and stature, to meet Hitchens and Fry on their own ground and match their own undoubted eloquence. Is that not their job?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Money in the Bank? 2

As somebody known for his traditional leanings, I have always been also ecumenically-minded. This has disconcerted people who like to put others into neat pigeon-holes, and who would like to find that I voted BNP (I don't) and had a whole raft of rebarbative opinions so that they could dislike me properly.

Having dinner with an Anglican clerical friend the other night—in fact one who is considering whether or not to accept Pope Benedict's Ordinariate proposal—our conversation ranged broadly over the recent happenings. 

It is clear that, for many, The Holy Father's idea represents the ending of all the ecumenical hopes: Rome ceases to dialogue with Anglicans, and simply reverts to You-come-in-ism, delighting in poaching converts at whatever price. The word 'poaching' has been used even in so-called 'quality' journalism.

The trouble is that, as far as mainstream Anglicanism is concerned, ARCIC is dead in the water. The achievement of ARCIC, while not perfect, did actually go a long way towards representing Anglicanism and Catholicism to each other, finding common ground and common expression. Anglo-Catholics in particular were encouraged to hope that this might be the beginnings of a model whereby they might find Anglicanism 'united with but not absorbed by' the larger Roman Catholic body.

What was not remembered (or perhaps it was convenient to forget) is that the Church of England regards itself as being both Catholic and Reformed, and that it has a substantial number of adherents who would describe themselves as Protestant and a larger body who would, in their own probable words, put people before dogmas, and whom we call Liberals—liberal-protestants, and liberal-catholics, depending on the flavour of the worship. To these, there was nothing sacred about ARCIC. Interesting, perhaps, (indeed there were Liberal and Protestant representatives on ARCIC), but not in any sense binding for the Church. Just a statement of where we were then. Now we've moved on. Time to dialogue again.

The trouble is that the Catholic Church is not a moving-on sort of institution. It has never regarded itself as floating around, blown by the spirit of the age, as have both Protestantism (except in its most traditional forms) and certainly Liberalism. So, the Anglo-Catholics, with one foot in the floating-off Anglican Communion, and the other on the Catholic bank, became increasingly distressed by the painful splits that began to result, and have been on the point of collapse into the water.

Now, in the nick of time, Pope Benedict has offered them an arm to grasp, with relatively few conditions attached. He has, in other words, again taken up the ARCIC idea, and though the mainstream Anglican Communion is no longer interested, he offers it to those who were hoping for so much from it, and who approached him in this spirit.

So, money in the bank, or dead in the water? Well, both; it depends on your perspective. There is a television programme (they tell me), in which someone called Anne Robinson is nasty to a group of people who, when they have saved up enough points, shout out 'Bank', which saves what has been achieved such that it can no longer be jeopardized by future speculation. A lot of good stuff has been achieved ecumenically. It would be a great shame if it were to be lost just because most of the Anglican Communion no longer thinks that way.

The idea that Pope Benedict's offer damages ecumenical relations only holds water if you presume that, in order to pursue dialogue with the Anglicans now, you must despise the group that they despise, which is to say, the dogmatic Anglo-Catholics. If that new sort of 'dialogue' is pursued, then the loss would be major. Not only would we have cast off a group with whom we have been in discussions for some forty years, and who share the overwhelming majority (if not the totality) of our beliefs (and what would that say about our own faith?) for the sake of some external observances and different traditions, but we would also have to begin again on the new pitch with the substantially moved goalposts; something we would have had to do anyway.

What Pope Benedict and the Anglo-Catholics have done is shout 'Bank!' Before further damage is done, the achievements of ARCIC have been banked. Now dialogue with the more unified Anglican Communion can proceed (or start again from the beginning)—and one may presume that this dialogue will be in time more fruitful, as we will be talking to a group whose views will be more homogenous than heretofore—though, being liberal-Protestant, the dialogue is less likely to be fruitful in our lifetimes. Who knows, in a hundred years or so? But the dialogue must be pursued.

In the meantime, just look where we have got to! The Bulgarian, Russian and Romanian Orthodox are all now actually interested in ecumenical dialogue, not just being grumpily reactive. That's progress. In the West, there is a genuine realignment, with the Protestant Communions dissolving and resolving into a broad liberal consensus. The Catholic end is coalescing, too, with Anglo-Catholics and Lefebvrists in sensible talks to pursue full visible oneness.

This is ecumenical progress. And it is largely thanks to the Pope of Christian Unity who has pursued this goal, as Benedict and as Cardinal Ratzinger, for at least thirty years. Seen in this light, his much-resented rejection of parts of ARCIC, too, can be seen as money in the bank; a real commitment to making sure that the faith expressed in those documents really did provide a solid foundation for unity. 

Such, no doubt, are the workings of Divine Providence.

Money in the Bank? 1

I was present last night in Worth Abbey at Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's lecture, ARCIC: Money in the Bank or Dead in the Water? The Cardinal, his voice a little weaker than of yore, was in good form; as always, the talk, in classic Cormac mode, was enlivened by little stories—H.E. is a marvellous raconteur—and touched by the man's genuine warmth and charm which not even his enemies can deny. I have always been immensely fond of the Cardinal—he ordained me, and supported me at a time when not many others did.

Many had speculated that the talk would have had to have been entirely rewritten in light of the Holy Father's new initiative with regard to Anglo-Catholics, but, wisely, the Cardinal avoided this red herring (because that is what it would have been), and spoke simply about his own experience of the hopes of Christian Unity from the fifties to the nineties, of the view of Vatican II and the theological underpinning, and finally of what he called Spiritual Unity.

This is what he had to say about the Ordinariate:

 But for the Catholic Church, the Petrine Ministry is a gift which serves to preserve both unity and the freedom of the Church from one-sided ties to certain nations, cultures or ethnic groups.   This is why Pope John Paul II seized the initiative and issued an invitation to a patient fraternal dialogue with other Christians on this very issue in his document, Ut Unum Sint.

 It is in this context that we perhaps should understand the response of Pope Benedict XVI to a number of requests over the past few years to the Holy See from groups of Anglicans who wish to enter into full visible communion with the Roman Catholic Church and are willing to declare that they share a common Catholic faith and accept the Petrine ministry as willed by Christ for his Church.   As everybody knows, there are certain groups of Anglicans who for years have nurtured hopes of new ways of embracing unity with the Catholic Church.   The generous response of the Holy See has been to establish a canonical structure for what is called ‘Personal Ordinariates’ which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of distinctive Anglican spiritual patrimony.   There is much that has been written and spoken about this matter over the past week but I would just want to emphasise that this response of Pope Benedict is no reflection or comment on the Anglican Communion as a whole or of our ongoing ecumenical relationship with them.   Indeed, I think it true to say that this was one of the reasons why this particular provision for Anglicans who wished to enter into full communion in 1993-94 was not implemented.  At that time, Cardinal Hume, Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia, the then Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster – now Archbishop Vincent Nichols – and myself were responsible for the on-going discussions with the leadership of a movement called, Forward in Faith, as also with the then Cardinal Ratzinger and his advisers in Rome.  It is true to say that some special provision for the Anglicans who wished to come into full communion with the Church, a provision such as the Personal Ordinariates, might have been very helpful at that time.  But after much discussion, it was finally decided that it would not be appropriate to take this initiative.  The reasons for this were two-fold.   The first is that in 1993-94 the we bishops were dealing solely with clergy of the Church of England, and any such response as is now given by the Holy See would naturally have had to be offered to the whole of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion.   It did not seem within our remit to engage in such a response.   The other reason, however, was even more important.   If the Holy See had offered such Personal Ordinariates then, and in particular here in England, it might well have been seen as an un-ecumenical approach by the Holy See, as if wanting to put out the net as far as one could.  Both Pope John Paul and the then Cardinal Ratzinger would have been against such a move as, indeed, were the four of us.  Matters have moved on since then and the repeated requests by many Anglicans, not only from England but from other Provinces of the Anglican Communion, have necessitated a new approach, which is why I think that the Personal Ordinariates offered by the Holy Father can be seen not in any way un-ecumenical but rather as a generous response to people who have been knocking at the door for a long time.

Like me, His Eminence doesn't (in my opinion) think well on his feet, and his response to the questions afterwards was less satisfactory. A young monk (presumably from Worth) pulled him up on a theological imprecision and in trying to explain, the Cardinal simply dug himself in deeper. Likewise, the first questioner, a non-Stipendiary Anglican priest, had expressed disquiet regarding the Church's questioning of the validity of his orders. That, too, could have been handled better—this question should have been anticipated. His Eminence did better when tacked on Pope Benedict's recent Ordinariate proposal. He refused to do anything but support the Holy Father, and resolutely rebutted the suggestion that this was intended to have a negative effect on Ecumenism. One questioner drew scattered applause from the audience when he opined that the Catholic Church should be learning from the Anglican on the subject of married clergy and women clergy. Again, Cormac supported the Church's line, saying that married clergy were a possibility; they were already in the Church, but that celibacy was going to remain the norm, and that the possibility of women priests was simply not to be thought of.

As for money in the bank, I have some thoughts of my own which I will deal with in the next post.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Calm down, dear!

That well-known theologian Richard Dawkins has weighed in with his opinions on the new Ordinariate. They are couched in his usual sweet and reasonable style. Here's a taster:

 No wonder that disgusting institution, the Roman Catholic Church, is dragging its flowing skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp: "Give me your homophobes, misogynists and pederasts. Send me your bigots yearning to be free of the shackles of humanity."

There's nothing like calm reasonable debate, is there? And this is nothing like calm, reasonable debate. 

Read the rest here, if you like.

A rant like that really would make me interested in quite what he is spitting and spluttering about. I remember somebody (a Protestant) in the 1980s suggesting that Ian Paisley was really an under-cover Jesuit and agent provocateur; he certainly did a lot of good for the cause of Catholicism by the sheer intemperance of his outbursts. It's nice that he, at least, seems to have taken Michael Winner's advice to 'calm down, dear!' But for the meantime, the more loony Dr Dawkins appears, the more reasonable our case appears.

I hesitate to draw the parallel with the riots accompanying Question Time last weekend, but I would not be surprised if the sheer intemperance of the protesters contributed to an increase of sympathy for the BNP speaker.

What I fear more is the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. I used to like Stephen Fry; he is witty, erudite, fearsomely intelligent, personable and a marvellous professional communicator. But somehow when you press the religion button, he simply loses it, and turns all his considerable talents to the very thing he professes to hate; hatred. The debate that took place in London last week, with Hitchens and Fry, experienced and articulate speakers, against Ann Widdecombe and Archbishop Oneiyekan of Abuja in Nigeria (who he?) is a case in point. The motion was 'The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world'. Fry and Hitchens turned all their rhetoric against the motion and simply reduced the Archbishop and Miss Widdecombe to a quivering mess. The audience, composed, I gather, of the chattering classes, overwhelmingly voted out Catholicism 1876 votes to a mere 268. 

There is a lot one might say: all Fry and Hitchens had to say was 'condoms, misogyny, raping little boys', with all that legendary authority and articulacy, and the other side would be quite unable to reply with lists of the good works that the Church does throughout the world; it isn't sexy, it can't be listed in a handful of minutes. And when the audience is quite plainly hostile (the archbishop was even booed), you can hardly expect even articulate and confident controversialists to do well. Ann Widdecombe did her best, but it simply isn't her field. All Hitchens and Fry had to do was to play to the gallery. I think it was unworthy of them.

I hesitate to say this, but I also suspect the thing was something of a set-up.

I don't fear the Dawkins' of this world. But I do fear the Frys; somebody who can be all cuddly one minute, all sweet reason, with fans in the hundreds of thousands, suddenly spitting hate. As he said on one edition of his quiz programme, QI, when the subject of religion came up, 'shit it, shit it, shit it!' And this is the man who says of himself 'I think of myself as filled with love'.

Love for everyone, that is, except us.

Calm down, dear!

Good stuff here on Christopher Hitchens Watch.

Pius X in Lourdes

The Fraternity of St Pius X have been on pilgrimage this week in Lourdes.

Monday, 26 October 2009

On the money

It would seem that for the TAC the decision is simple: there is nothing to lose, and an awful lot to gain, by accepting the Holy Father's offer. I imagine, then, that most, if not all, provinces will do so, and even when provinces don't, individual congregations will do so. This is because there will be very little sacrifice involved except, I suppose, a certain autonomy. They already own their churches, halls and rectories, so for those who do accept the Pope's offer, it will pretty well be business as usual once the modus operandi for reception/ordination has been worked out.
With the Church of England, it is the other way round. They are accustomed to having others make decisions for them (Synod &c), and in a direction they don't like. Autonomy has had to be wrested from those who would not willingly grant it. But for the most part they don't own their property and, as I have remarked before, the Church Commissioners are unlikely to feel in a generous mood. But perhaps I am being unduly cynical. Having listened to the Sunday Programme yesterday, I was struck how the three interviewed parties; an Evangelical bishop, a woman priest and academic and a bishop likely to accept the offer, all substantially agreed. The Evangelical and the lady were surprisingly warm about the scheme. And why wouldn't they be? Their jobs have just become a lot easier; there will now be only negligible opposition to their projects. This might dispose them to be in a generous mood and allow the secession of church buildings in places where there is a superabundance of them (as in Brighton, for instance). And, as I mentioned before, maybe a redundant church or two may be pressed into service.
The trouble is that, as I read on another blog (perhaps it was OneTimothyFour), lay Anglicans are disposed to love their bricks more than their bishops. I can envisage a situation whereby, if property transfer is not agreed, a large number of clergy may swim the Tiber, bringing their English Hymnals, their volumes of Pusey and the odd buckled shoe, but leaving their congregations behind, distressed at the choice they have had to make, but in the end prepared to put up with Bishop Susan and Father Margaret rather than leave St Disibod-by-the-Gasometer.
For some churches, I imagine this will not apply. I don't think all churches are owned by the Church Commissioners, or the Crown, or whoever. The shrine at Walsingham springs to mind (wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to worship there!) and maybe St Bartholomew's, Brighton (which made some very tentative enquiries Romeward in the early nineties). No doubt there are others. But if there really are going to be over a thousand clergy taking up the Pope's offer, then these churches are going to be like olden days, with a dozen curates each, or possibly a hundred. That won't do.
I don't imagine, either, that existing RC dioceses, many already strapped for cash, are going to be able to take on the burden of priests and families without there being some benefit to the diocese. It is possible that in England there may need to be some compromise worked out whereby priests are loaned by the Ordinariate to the dioceses to work in Roman Rite Catholic parishes, which then become liable for their support. These priests can offer Mass according to the Anglican form as and when needed or wished, maybe initially even in their Roman Rite parishes. Over time, congregations will gather, no doubt, and it should eventually become possible to find premises and become self-supporting, then being entirely under the supervision of the Ordinariate.
This loaning of priests from one jurisdiction to another (called fidei donum) is quite common in the Catholic Church, though I have not encountered it much in this country under that name. For some years this diocese sent priests to Chulucanas in Peru, and Portsmouth sent priests to Bamenda in Africa. Priests loaned to English dioceses would remain canonically part of the Ordinariate, and would return to work for it as soon as an opening became available.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

More thoughts on the new Ordinariate for Anglicans

Well, we're a few days into the new situation now, and there have been a number of positive receptions, such as that expressed this morning in the last section of the Sunday Programme (surprisingly, I might add) and some negative ones, such as this rather unpleasant one. 'Backwards in Faith' from the Guardian.

For myself, I've taken the opportunity to say a few words at all Masses this weekend to reassure people (whose views have been formed by some of the more irresponsible and ignorant media) that Pope Benedict has not actually poached the most unpleasant people from the CofE simply to reinforce his campaign to repress women, gays and decent human beings. Having listened to several of the speeches at the Forward in Faith conference yesterday, I was impressed that the overriding issue seemed to be the feeling that the ARCIC discussions should be allowed to be brought to fulfillment, at least with a section of the CofE, and that the Anglicans should be 'united but not absorbed' (or some similar phrase). That seems very reasonable. Since the Church has long lived with a multiplicity of customs, liturgies and histories in the East, it seems not unreasonable to allow the same to happen in the West when there is a good case for it. If the faith is the same, then there is no reason not to admit to Communion, allowing a generous difference when it comes to externals.

Looking around the blogs, I see that an abiding concern is whether the term 'Anglican' can be retained. It seems to have a serious resonance for many. I have a friend who is a Rumanian Catholic priest, which is to say, he follows the Eastern Rite. He has clearly described himself as an Orthodox Christian who is in communion with Peter. I think what he means is that all that is proper to the tradition of Rumanian Christianity he takes to himself, but also expresses it as a member of the Universal Church. In this sense, I can see no reason why a member of a future Ordinariate should not describe themselves as 'An Anglican who is in communion with Peter', as long as the description of 'Anglican' should not be taken as suggesting subscription to the 'historic formulas of the Church of England' including, of course, the 39 articles, nor communion with Canterbury, but rather, bringing with them, and indeed being prepared to share with co-religionists, the riches of that tradition that enlighten and deepen the faith we have in common. In fact, bringing with them the riches of the Ecclesia Anglicana that have existed for hundreds of years before the Reformation, and having gathered some more interesting stuff (Hooker, Lawes, and all that) along the way. I personally prefer the term 'Anglo Catholic', now properly understood as being parallel to Greek Catholic, Ruthenian Catholic, Armenian Catholic and the rest.

In the speeches at the Forward in Faith conference, there seemed to be a little uncertainty as to the nature of an Ordinariate. My understanding is that an ordinary is an ordinary; which is to say, the true ecclesiastical superior of a group of priests and their associated laity. The suggestion from the Vatican that the ordinary might be a priest rather than a bishop seemed to me not a restriction on the possible new Church, but rather the reverse. It meant that the Vatican was perfectly prepared to countenance that the chosen leader might be a married priest, if this was deemed desirable by the new Anglo-Catholics, though it was certainly prepared to provide a bishop, as long as the candidate were celibate. A parallel, though not an exact one, has been drawn with military ordinariates. In the Catholic Church, these function almost exactly as non-territorial dioceses; in some cases (Italy, for example) they train their own candidates for ordination who work and live exactly as in a diocese; in other military ordinariates, (such as the British), priests are supplied from dioceses, though while in the Ordinariate, they work with the Bishop of the Forces as their Ordinary. It would seem that Rome intends that Anglicans in Union with Peter should remain as a permanent body with their own ordinary, which is to say an ordinariate on the Italian model. The only difference from a 'normal' diocese is that this authority will be non-territorial; in other words, the bishop or prelate would have full authority over his priests and parishes under the Pope, and certainly much greater authority than the present flying bishops have over resolution A, B & C parishes. Bishop John Hind's worries, (as expressed yesterday) then, I think are groundless, that the new body would lack proper ecclesiality; there will be a bishop (or another prelate) working together with his priests for the salvation of the people entrusted to them. That is just what the Holy Father intends. That's Bishop Hind in the picture.

The speech by Bishop Nazir-Ali (though far from hostile) was more cautious than some of the others, and he expressed a concern that candidates for priesthood in the new arrangement would have to be trained in regular Roman Catholic seminaries with some optional extra classes in Anglican Catholicism. This is not what I understood to be being offered; providing numbers warrant it, there should be no reason why particular seminaries to train clergy for the Anglo-Catholic Ordinariate should not be set up. However, it would be my earnest wish that the training offered would be considerably better (and longer!) than that currently offered by the CofE. It ought in no way to be possible for a man to be ordained after two years' correspondence course in Openness, Wholeness, Counselling, and Aromatherapy. I exaggerate, of course, but only a little.

Another (quite understandable) anxiety concerns Apostolicæ Curæ and the decreed invalidity of orders. I have recently wondered whether there might not be another solution to this which does not yet seem to have been considered. In the case of marriage (like Orders, a sacrament for which the Lord has not himself prescribed matter and form), validity can be provided (and usually is) by repeating the ceremony, observing due form ('Convalidation'), but, when needs require it, it can be put right, in certain cases, by the process known as 'sanatio in radice'; a decree that the Church now supplies her consent to the original ceremony, thus rendering it valid. 
The letter of Archbishop Benson, then of Canterbury, Sæpius Officio, (quoted yesterday by the Bishop of Chichester) began the Anglican response to Apostolicæ Curæ, and since then there have also been many other efforts to correct the deficits noted by that document (reinjection of Apostolic Succession from the Old Catholics &c). I have long argued (following the eminent Doctor Freddy Broomfield, RIP) that what made Anglican Orders invalid was not the individual specific lacks, which may or may not have been remedied, but the refusal of acknowledgement of validity by the Universal Church. Now, if the Church can retrospectively grant validity to a marriage (all other elements for validity being present), can she not do so for ordination? I am not asserting the possibility for this, merely asking the question. It might prove a great comfort to many who felt that they would have to deny their past ministry. It's a fudge, of course, but Anglicans like fudge.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Consoling Thoughts

On reading this morning's Martyrology, I read that today is the feast day of one St Severinus Boethius, described as a martyr.
Papia in Liguria, commemoratio sancti Severini Boetii, martyris, qui, scientia et ac scriptis præclarus, in carcere detentus tractatum scripsit de consolatione philosophiæ et Deo usque ad mortem a Theodorico rege inflictam cum integritate servivit.
So this is the author of The Consolation of Philosophy. I knew he had been imprisoned, and wrote the book in his cell, but I did not know that he was a saint, let alone a martyr!
Read more here.
The title of martyr seems to have been given him because Theodoric was an Arian: well, there are plenty of other saints in the calendar whose death was only dubiously martyrdom (Edith Stein, for instance: few doubt her virtue and erudition, but she died for her Jewishness, not her Christianity): in Boethius' case, no doubt, the title of saint followed naturally; if a martyr, therefore a saint.

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.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Cardinal Schönborn dares to confront reality

At a retreat for priests at Ars, 'The joy of the priest, consecrated for the salvation of the world', Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna answered the questions of journalists regarding priestly identity and the crisis of vocations. Text is translated (rough-and-readily) by me from Famille Chretienne.

Q: What are the causes of the vocations crisis?

My conviction is that vocations do exist—for female religious, priests, men and women—and that they are numerous. But often, they get nowhere because of the climate of indecision in our society. Who gets married nowadays, except the most fanatical Catholics? This indecision plays an important role for the lack, not of vocations, but of fulfilled vocations.

In many families, there is no joy that a son might be a priest or a daughter a nun. So, people are called, but who hears?

We also feel the effects of the crisis [of vocations] in recent decades. The vagueness of the formation and the identity of the priest have meant that many have drawn back. Meanwhile, during these last thirty years, in Europe or in America, there has been a widespread phenomenon: young people are moving towards the faith of the Church: a few seminaries and new communities are full of vocations. 

Some colleagues—a bit liberal [un peu soixante-huitardes]—conclude that "These young people seek security, they are cautious, they dare not confront the world, etc.. " without seeing that it was their own secularized way of life, their flat and purely horizontal theology which had no attraction for youth! That is why I propose that in our chapters-general, our diocesan meetings, we begin to ask ourselves: "Where are vocations going to come from? Why?" Be honest enough to look closely. The answer will be easy, but we must dare to confront the reality.

Monday, 12 October 2009


Celebrating High Mass at Arundel Cathedral yesterday, I was surprised by a Salve Regina at the end of Mass, for which nobody had the text for the collect. But then I remembered; pulling up my alb, I rummaged in my cassock pocket and drew out my iPhone. As the Salve was progressing, I dialled up the excellent Divinum Officium website (of which more about some other time) and found Compline, then the Salve, then the collect. Just in time. And over the stifled chortles of deacon and subdeacon, the collect was delivered just as it should be.

Monday, 5 October 2009

TLM in Ennis

I was delighted to read on the NLM blog an account of an extraordinary form Mass in the elegant 'Gothick' Cathedral at Ennis in County Clare. It is a church and town that I know well: in fact I celebrated the Requiem Mass for my beloved aunt Agnes there some eleven or twelve years ago. I remember going to Mass there when I was a boy; the liturgy was the English form of the old Mass ('I will go to the altar of God/ the God of my gladness and joy'), and I remember that all the women sat on one side of the church and all the men on the other. A few years after this, the sanctuary was very unsympathetically reordered.
In the past, the Cathedral had a fine liturgical and musical tradition; there was a Dutch organist called de Regg (sp?) who played a mighty three-manual instrument, far too big for the Cathedral which is really only the size of a largish parish church. A large pile of his music (including some early Clementi editions, which in due course I passed on to the organist at the London Oratory) came my way eventually, via my aunt Agnes. My grandmother sang in the choir around the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; she told a story that at some service or other they were singing Fr Faber's hymn 'O mother, I could weep for mirth' (well, quite!) with its repeated refrain 'Immaculate! Immaculate!' A well-known local drunk called Jim Mack came staggering into the Cathedral and thought they were singing 'Jim Mack, you're late!', whereupon he let loose with a torrent of obscenity.
Something you might not have noticed is a reference to a choir from Corofin. I have meant to blog about this choir for some time, for it is a real treasure. As with most of Ireland, the diocese of Killaloe has been rather reluctant, to say the least, to pursue any sort of traditional liturgy until Michael Leahy set up this little group of enthusiasts in a remote part of County Clare near the Burren. It is named Schola Petra Fertile, a reference to the 13th century abbey on the Burren's edge, founded from Furness Abbey in Cumbria, called (then) the abbey of Sancta Maria de Petra Fertilis  (or, variously, Fertili, or Fertile [can that be right?]), or Our Lady by the Fertile Rock. This is a reference to the karst landscape of the Burren, where extraordinary fertile soil lies improbably in the cracks between a sort of lunar landscape of limestone blocks. Nowadays the ruins are known as Corcomroe Abbey.
Back to the schola. They sing mainly in the parish of Corofin, Kilnaboy (my family home) and Rath, circulating from church to church from Sunday to Sunday, and occasionally elsewhere. Their repertoire is exclusively plainchant, and on the whole, the best known items from the Liber (by which I mean Missa de Angelis, a few motets such as Attende Domine, Adoro te devote &c). Solesmes it ain't, but, in the soil in which it is planted, it, like the abbey, and like the flora of the Burren, flourishes most surprisingly. They deserve to be better known and imitated. They have won a few prizes, (perhaps partly due to the sheer dearth of competition) and have produced a CD: Sanctus: Canto Gregoriano, which has this to say inside:
The Corofin Gregorian Chant Group, the 'Schola Petra Fertile', was set up in response to Pope Benedict's call for increased use of Gregorian Chant in Church liturgy.
The Schola won first place in the plainchant competition at the 2007 Limerick Festival of Church Music.
Formed in 2006, the group is directed by Mr Michael Leahy. Initial training was undertaken by Fr Liam Enright (Diocese of Limerick) and more recently by Fr Michael O'Brien, who is also the Schola's accompanist.
Gregorian Chant is a wonderful legacy of the Church and it is envisaged that this recording will be used as a training tool by parish choirs in the restoration of plainchant in the Sacred Liturgy.

Indeed. Amen. County Clare is famous in Ireland for its (mostly Irish Traditional) music, so perhaps it is not entirely surprising that this enterprise should have been undertaken here.
And I am biased, I suppose, because my uncle sings in the group!