My article of yesterday The Quest for Recognition and Respectability has had something of a write-up by John Beeler in Splinter churches’ quest for recognition and respectability.
He took me up on my own observation that the fate of the TAC as it was under Archbishop Hepworth was predictable. Indeed, some of us clergy labouring under “perpetual irregularities” (ouch – but fortunately it doesn’t involve incarceration in the Castel Sant’ Angelo) were told there was going to be some kind of amnesty. That put us in an awkward position: Why go back to what we left, even in some kind of arrangement where we would be “protected”? Are we opportunists ready to get onto any old bandwagon if it would suit our selfish purposes as “charlatan” clergy? Good questions, usually coming from those who care only about cut-and-dried ideas, not about persons.
That last observation is a key to understanding many of the polemics of 2010-2011. The real powerhouse at that time was Christian Campbell’s The Anglo-Catholic, still in existence but totally inactive. It attracted the trolls like a rotting carcass appeals to flies! I set up a “rival” blog in 2010 which caused me to be locked out of the “distinguished staff” of Campbell’s blog. Those cold and heartless predators have few places to go now that Fr Smuts posts less frequently on his blog and shows no sign of having been swimming in “warm” water. Deborah Gyapong is still going with her Foolishness to the World but now writes on mostly Roman Catholic subjects and less frequently. Fr. Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment is the most lively. He watches his comment box very carefully. You can’t get in there and blithely crap on the floor!
Here on this blog, I have had long experience at keeping the poison dwarfs out, and by means that are completely acceptable to my blog provider. I simply have about thirty moderated e-mail addresses. They don’t get to crap on the floor, but like with Fr Hunwicke, they are filtered at the door.
John Beeler is a good sort of person, as fascinated with classic cars as I am with their counterparts on the sea, stout wooden gaff-rigged vessels. He idolises the 1950′s, a little like the “Romantic Ladies” of Aristasia, whilst I associate the whole of the century of my birth with the two world wars that marked the end of our civilisation. We can’t go back to any other era of history, but we can seek for better cultural references than prosperous post-war America. John is also one of those persons who self identify with a mental disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome or simply high-functioning autism. That means that a person has no emotional relationship with other persons. At worst, they lack empathy like those suffering from more sinister personality disorders. I am sceptical about psychiatry as a science, and am persuaded that it is a moral problem for the most part, a question of being completely human.
Something struck me in a war film, when a German soldier was threatened at gunpoint by Allied men – This is not correct. He was concerned more for the respect of rules and procedure even than for his own life! It’s almost as if he was thinking in terms of someone simply violating the regulations of the Wehrmacht in such a narrow-minded way. The reality was that he was up against enemy soldiers and his life was threatened unless he released the Allied prisoners being held by the Gestapo. The surrealism is striking.
This is a characteristic of many religious apologists who lack human empathy and perceive their philosophy of life as an intellectual game. John Beeler, like many of us, has been seeking his happiness as a church-going Christian. Being an American, he could find a whole choice of churches, among which he would more or less find his way. He discusses the options and his own experience, but the bottom line for is like the German soldier – order, procedure and authority take precedence over everything. It seems far from Christ denouncing the Pharisees as did many of the Prophets before him. John simply cannot understand any human dimension of religion or spiritual life, at least as far as I read.
Thus the true Anglo-Catholics are the Affirming Catholics who stayed with the establishment. Don’t like it? You have to come Tiber-swimming in the “warm” water. The TAC, ACC and others are abject losers because we got out of the “system”. On the other hand, the SSPX is OK because its teachings are like the “old time religion”. This is a game, like many of the computer strategy games on today’s market – or good old-fashioned chess. I have always had pleasant correspondence with John, and I have often got on with people even if they never look you in the eye, and they can only talk about their interests (I suppose as I do on this blog).
After John’s reasoned piece, and he is entitled to his opinions and convictions, some of the comments are a little more “salty”. “Anti-Gnostic” discusses Eastern Orthodoxy.
I had dealings with “Conchúr” on the old English Catholic blog, someone who reminded me a little of some of the men attending talks held by the Catholic Evidence Guild and preparing for their Sunday afternoon heckling at Hyde Park Corner. I had a lot less experience of life in 1981 or thereabouts, but in hindsight I see always the same thing. It’s an intellectual “order” that they are trying to build and they don’t care about the person they are trying to convert. I may be wrong but I suspect that’s it.
(…) passive-aggressive sniping at Rome and expounding an “idiosyncratic” ecclesiology that I’d be surprised would be regarded as doctrinally kosher by the ACC.
Hmm, interesting. I find the ACC very tolerant in matters of theology and research. I have not been taken to task for formal heresy, which is no real surprise since I assent to the teachings of our Church. In point of fact, I tend to be inspired by twentieth-century ressourcement theology, which in the minds of some is “tainted” by Modernism more than by Catholic / Protestant scholasticism.
“Diane” says “That is certainly my impression, from the very little I’ve ever seen of his blog. Is this a minuscule group? It certainly seems to be pretty teeny, but I would welcome real numbers, if available.“
I don’t even bother responding, because this lady has certainly read my writings. Usual ploy, Chadwick’s blog is too radioactive to read, but I’m curious all the same! I think my bishop in England has written about numbers in our diocese. We are very small, though some building work is going on through house groups and new clergy coming in. We don’t have the right to get discouraged, but rather to rejoice in our smallness and family-like intimacy. This human quality certainly is far over the heads of the authoritarians and apologetics geeks of our world.
“Anti-Gnostic” comes back in with my Englishness. Sorry I can’t help it. That’s where I was born. I suppose we have no less of a choice of churches and denominations as the Americans. The comment seems something of a non-sequitur.
The saltiest is William Tighe. He is kind enough when he comments on my blog. I am grateful for the many books he sends me about things he finds I should know more about. I read those books and renew my thanks for these generous gifts. He too is an intellectual, a historian. I remember from my courses with Fr Bedouelle OP at Fribourg that studying history needs a clear mind uncluttered with our modern perspective. One example is our abhorrence of torture and gruesome executions, believed at the time (up to Enlightenment times) to be genuinely pastoral methods of ensuring the wrongdoer’s salvation.
I am not the historian Dr Tighe is, but I do get the impression that there have been times when the Church was understood differently. The plain language of the Fathers and the liturgy seems to indicate a rigid disciplinary and penitential way of thinking. At the same time, St Augustine opposed the rigorism of the Donatists, and the “gentle” approach was vindicated in time.
Ecclesiology is a relatively new discipline in theology. Until about the time of Möhler in the mid nineteenth century, the Church was defined in institutional terms and a sacramental notion was not yet developed. If one wants anything better than Bellarmine’s idea that the Church is visible like the Republic of Venice is visible, we need to have recourse to theology from our own times. That clashes with the certitude of the “pharisee”.
I am aware that no human ecclesial or theological system can rid us from all doubt and cognitive dissonance. We are plagued with incoherence wherever we turn, and peace will only ever be found at the level of the spirit. At the material and intellectual level, no inner certitude can be found except by way of delusion. As time goes on, I find that the less we try to solve these problems, the better it will be for our remaining belief and spiritual life. My fingers were burned long ago! Is the position of the Anglican Catholic Church perfectly coherent? I don’t think anyone’s position is immune to any criticism and challenge. We are all fragile. I am not “cradle” ACC. I was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England and foolishly left it long before women’s ordination in that quest for intellectual cohesion and perfection. Indeed, as the French say – Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. That experience made me sensitive to the “Conchúr-type” who would proselytise you without once looking you in the eye.
Many of us have made mistakes in life, and will continue making them in our ignorance and being unprepared for the hidden small print on the back of the glossy paper. Am I making a mistake doing what I am doing? Perhaps. In trying to discern the right thing, we are just utterly alone and can only rely to some extent on our intuitions, betrayed as we are by exclusive use of reason.
None of us in the ACC would ever claim that our tiny community is the “one true church”, and that is one thing that attracted me to her. We can cope with doubt and insecurity, as God alone is our rock and sure foundation.
(…) complexities and incoherencies of an Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology implemented in “the real world”
What is the “real world”? Perhaps that real world is that dark mass of glass and concrete in central and eastern London, the vision of hell on earth I saw last May from my car as I drove out of the capital! I would find it difficult to believe that Dr Tighe’s Church is the hard reality of London’s financial empire. I expected something else of Christ and what seems to be implied in the Our Father and the Beatitudes.
Incarnate Christianity needs something tangible, since we are earth-bound creatures reliant on our five senses, and we have not experienced the larger part of the “multiverse”, universal conscious energy or whatever you want to call it. We as humans are of different temperaments. I am a Romantic and rely more on intuition and emotional empathy. My interlocutors in the blogosphere are often classicists, intellectuals, men of law, order and authority. Romantics give second place to such considerations, behind prophetic inspiration, art and poetry, the ecstasy of love and beauty. Law and authority are not of the esse but the bene esse of society, without which the arbitrary is of a much more fearful tyranny.
This is the fundamental difference between the way I feel and think and my critics. I am grateful that this article came up, since I believe in free expression of the convictions, beliefs and conscience of all. That is one great potential of the Internet.