Monday, 21 June 2010

Between a rock and a hard place

No doubt you have seen the strange antics of athletes before a race. They purse their lips and blow, they stretch, waggle their limbs around, jump up and down on the spot, sprint a few paces all, no doubt, for good reasons, and also, perhaps mainly, to ‘psych themselves up’ for the race.

Reading blogs like St Barnabas or The Anglo Catholic gives me much the same impression: here are people psyching themselves up for a big change. The air tingles with excitement; they are thinking and saying the things that they have wanted to for years, and there is a heady atmosphere, almost a sense of being demob-happy. They know that it isn’t going to be easy—little worth having is easy—but the long struggle through the wilderness will soon be over.

But what of the others? What of those left behind for whatever reason?

There has been a lot of quite triumphalistic stuff around, ‘Catholicism without Peter is not Catholicism’; well, quite; I believe that myself. But the trouble is that Anglicanism, despite the common assertion, is not so much Catholic and Reformed (meaning 100% of both), because that, frankly, would be contradictory. It means that there are compromises, and elements of both, in differing cocktail strengths, plus other stuff (liberalism, for instance). One might call oneself a Catholic (within the CofE, I mean) but not actually share all the teachings of Vatican II, Vatican I or even Trent. What it means is that one believes in a cocktail that is Catholic-heavy, if I can put it like that, and the elements that go to make up the Catholic bit can differ from person to person.

To some, union with Peter may indeed be desireable, one day, but there is a lot of other stuff to get out of the way first. Such a person may nevertheless feel much more comfortable in the company of Catholic-minded colleagues than among the usual mix in his deanery chapter. He may even belong to the SSC and Forward in Faith. He may hate the notion of women’s orders. But is he really expected, then, to believe also in Papal Infallibility and the wrongness of artificial contraception, and, most painful of all, to submit to ordination in forma absoluta………?

For those whose cocktail was almost 100% Catholic, the decision has more or less made itself. However, I worry about those whose Catholicism is, say, at 80%. They know (and I agree) that it would be unwise to join the Roman Catholic Church in any form without basically subscribing to the doctrinal package. They may hope that the Ordinariate would cushion the impact of this, but this is unlikely to be the case. The Ordinariate provides a variation on Latin Rite disciplinary matters, but not on doctrinal ones.

So what? They have been living for years side by side with those whose views differ! But now, the authorities are going to be very insistent that orthodox (100%) Catholic doctrine be preached. The fudge will have to be left behind.

So, they are caught between a Rock (Peter) and an increasingly hard place (The Anglican Communion). With the departure of many respected colleagues on the Easyjet flight to Rome, the religious world looks even bleaker than it did on the day that Synod voted for women bishops.

I have every sympathy for people in this position. All we can do, I think, is pray for the gift of faith for them, that they may come to believe the fullness of the Catholic faith that has meant so much to them all these years. And be kind.


Dominic Mary said...

Speaking as having been there myself, I suspect that those who will have the hardest time are in fact those whose faith is essentially 100% Catholic, but who have fudged the Petrine issue . . .
Do pray for them; once they get over that, they will have the easiest of times, because they will find the Church is naturally 'home' for them : it's just the need to acknowledge how much you've deluded yourself that is so uncomfortable. (See 'A Spiritual Aeneid' for an excellent description !)

Maurice said...

Agreed! Or those who have just found themselves in ther CofE by circumstance rather than choice and thought that it was possiboe to do both ...

They will find it home. They will. They will.

Ed Tomlinson said...

I for one am VERY excited and have no internal struggles at all. Head says yes...but the struggle is how to move my people. ALL of them. A shepherd does not abandon the sheep and that is why I implore your prayers that we secure our building. Rightly or will make a mighty difference

TerryC said...

As an orthodox cradle Catholic myself I can tell you that full submission to the Magisterium is never easy, but that does not make it less important. There will always be some issue for every individual that is difficult to accept. It is our heritage from our first parents to chaff against the authority of God.
Prayer is indeed the answer. We must pray for them and they must pray for themselves. Prayer for a humble heart is always the hardest of prayers to pray with true conviction.

Anonymous said...

Chris M writes:
As an orthodox cradle Anglican, I have no problems with being 100% Catholic. In the sense that Augustine, Anelm and even Aquinas were 100% Catholic (to just start with the 'A's). My probllem is the course the church of Rome has taken in more recent centuries. I do not "share all the teachings of Vatican II, Vatican I or even Trent" and neither did the aforementioned 'A's and many 'B's 'C's etc. I have no problem with a Petrine primacy, so long as its position is not used (perhaps abused) to add doctinal acretions that millions of good (Catholic adn Orthodox)Christians can not in good concience assent to. I long for the day when we can all share the Body and Blood of Christ, at the same table without 'disciplinary' and doctinal additions keeping us apart.