Sunday, 3 August 2008

Whither the Anglicans?

I take no joy in the current efforts of the Church of England to tear itself to pieces. Some of the comments I have read on the internet smack uncomfortably of schadenfreude which is both unchristian and unpleasant. Many parties among the Anglicans, equally convinced of the justice of their cause, have behaved with what appears to be sometimes horrifying vindictiveness towards their co-religionists: this is, perhaps, not surprising since the matters are scarcely light ones.
In the middle sits the Archbishop of Canterbury, trying vainly by one means or another to prevent the house of cards collapsing. Further divisions among Christian communions are not likely to please our Lord, nor yet speed the reconciliation of many with our Lord's Church.
I read in the Tablet a couple of weeks ago that Rowan Williams likes going on retreat to a monastery in Northern Italy, and that his closest advisor at the Lambeth Conference is Timothy Radcliffe, the eminent Dominican. I don't know what his co-religionists make of this, but I find in it only further demonstration of the sheer distance of much of Anglicanism from Catholicism. It is as if the Archbishop wants to make use of this or that from Catholicism to season his own particular stew of beliefs, or perhaps that of the Anglican Church. It is no sign that he thinks Catholicism has the truth, simply some useful ideas. Again and again, we see the Cartesian self at the centre; I am the centre of truth, I decide what is true. It is, perhaps, easy to caricature the opposite view as fundamentalism, and it is true that many extremists take this view of revelation as something to which we submit (='Islam') as being axiomatic. But accepting that truth exists outside oneself, independent of oneself, yet can be known by revelation, does not necessarily imply either the surrender of one's intelligence nor a submission to an arbitrary authority. It simply starts from somewhere other than cogito, ergo sum.
Some Anglicans see this very clearly. I have been charmed by Fr Hunwicke's blog, as I think you know. But his distress in recent weeks bleeds from the last few posts. There can be no doubt that incalculable pain has been caused to good men and women who have done their best in strange circumstances to serve our Lord, and I will not take pleasure in their sorrow. Fr Hunwicke and his brethren face the end of what was, in my view, a lovely illusion, though honestly believed, and now have to face hard decisions. If they try and stay, fortifying their parishes against the cold liberal tide, I think that they must be, at least to some extent, in bad faith—effectively co-operating in what they believe to be sin. If they go, then where are they to go? Oh, it seems obvious to me, of course, but they have spent the last several decades arguing just why they are not (Roman) Catholics. You can't shrug that off overnight; they, after all, have not changed; it is the Cof E around them that has done that. Just because the CofE is no longer believable doesn't mean that Rome presents any more of a delightful prospect. And I have long felt that the principal doctrine, at bottom, of all non-Catholic churches is 'We are not Roman Catholics'. The rest can be mixed to taste.
So the next place to look may well be the Orthodox. They aren't Roman Catholics; indeed, they are a very good example of having anti-Catholicism as a key doctrine. They don't get too fussed about moral theology (except when they do), they have spirituality in spades (except when they don't), long beards and nice vestments (ditto). But they bicker far worse than Anglicans—in fact until recently, the Anglicans set them a very good example of tolerance—and seem to drink bitterness with their mother's milk. They are hopelessly territorial (when did you ever hear of serious Orthodox  missionary initiatives—there is Alaska, but it is the exception that proves the rule) and often nationalistic which seriously calls into question the mark of Unity in their ecclesiality. Just read this, for instance.
Many Anglicans are looking everywhere for answers. Let us please be patient and tolerant. And pray that our own authorities will come up with something imaginative and generous. There have been many instances in the past where conversions have been initially half-hearted, but have strengthened with the passage of time as the imagined ogres prove to be nothing but phantoms and the blessings, quite literally, out of this world.
Which is to say that perhaps the apparent intolerance of the victors at Synod may prove in the long run to be good for both the CofE and for those who find its recent decisions hard to take. The remaining Anglicans will be more united, albeit in beliefs that I frankly cannot share, and those who can no longer call Canterbury home may find a loving embrace in our common Mother, the Catholic Church, and, ultimately, domum non manufactam in cælis.
And all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.
Forgive my rambling.


Anonymous said...

Could you give this a little publicity please:

Saint Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association invites you to honour the Holy Year of St. Paul by attending Holy Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite (Missal of Blessed John XXIII) on Saturday, 30th August, 2008, at 11 a.m., in St. Paul’s Church, Emo, Co. Laois, Ireland, followed by a tour of Emo Court House and Gardens.

For the past 15 years, St. Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association has been working prayerfully for the provision of the Traditional Latin Liturgy in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.

Please confirm your attendance to:

For further details consult:

God bless you!

Saint Conleth’s Catholic Heritage Association

Anonymous said...

William said...

If I may borrow from The Merrie Jestes of Hugh Ambrose, No. 7863: the answer to the question posed by your title is surely "Yes, we do, and that right rapidly!"

Anonymous said...

Why this hand-wringing about Anglicanism? Ever since the Church of England's fateful decision to ordain women the implosion of the Anglican Communion has been expected. It has been further compounded by the homosexual debate. At last it has arrived. Your interesting post has answered many of the questions you raise so why bother to agonize on the behalf of Anglo-Catholics? Despite the cultural gains and attraction this movement has always been a fragile phenomenon and is now in ruins. But no amount of cajoling or reason will persuade Anglo-Catholics to leave their fantasy world. It is an almost entirely congregational phenomenon these days as the plaintive appeal to pastoral considerations for not submitting to Rome demonstrate. Don't you think they are best left alone to stew in their own juice?

The best Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity left sixteen years ago and have since enriched the Catholic Church by accepting it on its own terms and settling down happily. Those who returned are largely playboys. Welcome individuals warmly, but don't waste time on the unpersuadable residue. When you read Anglo-Catholic websites you realize how much they insult the Catholic Church by carrying on as they do.

Anonymous said...

If you want to get an impression of the low morale and unrealism of the Anglo-Catholic residue in the Church of England Google Forward in Faith and track down the comments on their coverage of the Lambeth Conference. You will then see how peripheral they are and their admission that they have not future. You will find the link on 'breaking news'.