A Storm in a Teacup

My attention was drawn to an article in Fr Robert Hart’s blog – Convert Orthodoxy as Media Echo Chamber and the use made of it by You-Know-Who to portray Anglican / Anglo – Catholics as faux Catholics. I had brushes with Fr Hart in the old Hepworth days of the “Coeti-bus” and various other analogies of public transport from various players in the game. Since then, the Continuum shows little more than Fr Hart’s sermons, which of course are very good and edifying. Occasionally an article like this one emerges when we are reminded about the “two one-true churches”.

It is more an American problem than anything else. Our friend in California portrays his “faux” Catholics as hipsters, or people who follow certain fashions, who perhaps lack originality of thought, or who do not conform to his middle-class standards.

We Europeans are wont to quip about Americans lacking culture, but the same problem is here too. Europeans started being faux Americans a long time ago, and Americans remained on the whole quite religious. The USA is about the unique exception of the proportion between consumer capitalism and the extinction of religion, faith or spirituality. I suppose you get the same level of proselytism by Roman Catholic and Orthodox converts in cities like London. It happened to me and my fifteen years as a Roman Catholic were a curse (though there were some blessings). Europe still has that Cujus Rex ejus religio. You practice the religion you were born into, or none at all. Even New Age and the cults are out of fashion these days. Materialism and über-rationalism are still “in”.

Some people get so worked up about what other people are up to. People do many things that make me squirm like taking drugs and getting tattoos, or listening to infernal machine noises that some call “music” – but who am I to stop them. They and I belong to different worlds. They and I have different values and priorities.

One thing I suggest is more independence of spirit. Perhaps you have to be autistic to understand it. We don’t have to live and march in lockstep with other people. We can live our own lives whilst respecting the freedom and good of others. If religion is fashion or something to define our outward appearance, then it won’t do us much good.

My Baptist sister wrote to me a short while ago to contrast a “relationship with Jesus” and “religion” in its meaning as a code of observances and “works”. I don’t relate to that somewhat simplistic dualist distinction, but there is a point – the relationship with God and the Incarnate Word and our knowledge of God and ourselves. That certainly is the priority over outward observances and traditions. Christ laboured the point as he fustigated the Scribes and Pharisees. C.S. Lewis made a wonderful point as he came up with the idea of Mere Christianity – the core of beliefs and practices we all have in common.

It is insulting to call the Church I belong to faux because it is not in communion with the Pope and within the norms of their canon law. The word faux is the French word for false or fake or bogus. Used in English, it seems to mean the other French word pastiche or imitation, like a modern house built in an old style. It can be used in a very derogatory way, or it can be a good thing. The nineteenth century saw the building of some very fine neo-gothic churches in the wake of the Romantic movement. I see nothing wrong with appealing to the past for good ideas and a reference when we are lost and confused with modernity.

Whichever Church we belong to, I think is unkind and even cruel to disturb members of others communities to get them into our pews instead of theirs on the pretext of our boutique church being better than theirs. Again, institutional Christianity comes up against the same pierre d’achoppement as in the eighteenth century. It has had its day, unless we find what it was really about – which is not power / money structures. Proselytism and self-righteousness eventually lead to the Déesse Raison in the place of the statue of Our Lady and the guillotine in the town square, because when the salt loses its savour, it is fit only to be rejected and thrown away.

It is about the intrinsic value of each and every being of creation and its reconciliation with the Creator through inner knowing and love. Let us, each one of us, reconcile ourselves with ourselves, and thereby with God. Then perhaps there is some hope.

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Blue Flower Statistics

My site statistics page informs me that The Blue Flower has been uploaded 230 times since I published it on my static website As the Sun in its Orb.

The summer 2018 edition is available here free of charge for downloading.

Once summer is over, I intend to start planning the winter edition. All those interested in contributing something are welcome to contact me. I am inclined to write something on truth and theories of knowledge in the thought of the German Romantics, Novalis in particular. Patrick Sheridan (Russian Orthodox layman) has studied Tolkien in depth, and I think he wants to write something. I am concerned about the notion of truth in the search for a via media between fundamentalism in its different forms (but all claiming truth as their “property”) and post-modern scepticism. The more authors who sympathise with this theme and come forward, the better. There is no limit to size or number of articles, since these first issues are in pdf format.

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Hasta La Vista, Baby

I find myself in the Spanish-speaking blogosphere.

I have never learned Spanish, but my knowledge of Italian gives me an idea of some of it – and I ran the text through Google translation to get something very vague. It was a help. I don’t know who runs Sursum Corda or what his “position” is. Perhaps he is Orthodox with a soft spot for western rites. They do exist in Spain and Latin America.

He mentions The Blue Flower without seemingly really understanding what it is about. I do have an interest in Radical Orthodoxy as one expression of neo-Platonism and at a distance from scholastic literalism, but it is just one current of thought among many others. We need to be open-minded so as not to be victims of fixed ideas that hold us prisoners rather than freeing us to seek the truth.

It’s not a bad or unkind article. I am grateful for that. I doubt that Latins would be inclined to leave comments, but we’ll see. Perhaps an old confrere at Gricigliano we called La Gran’ España. Olé!

The author of Sursum Corda is planning an article about Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục. I wrote this one three years ago, and the subject matter has been flogged to death by the Archbishop’s defenders and adversaries, mostly in the USA. The sedevacantist world has settled down quite well now, but has been very similar to continuing Anglicanism in the 1990’s with the same problem of mitre-fever and immature men in the Episcopate. I see the variations on the same constant theme of human foolishness. I am grateful to see things settling down and becoming more stable, both in my own Anglican camp and with those identifying as Roman Catholics in spite of their canonical rupture from Rome.

I attach more importance to ecclesial coherence than the exact form of the rites of ordination in the Pontifical and our Anglican Ordinal. I have no problem with the validity of Anglican Orders in spite of the Reformation and the radical changing of rites. The same thing happened in the Roman Catholic Church with the novus ordo ordination rites, and they still have a valid priesthood. We do well not be obsessed with these issues of validity, but rather to live as Christians and adjusted human beings.

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Sailing Dinghies

Painting by Claudia Myatt

There has been another lovely article from my old friend Roger Barnes on his preference for an open sailing boat over cabin yachts. A personal view: Why I sail dinghies. He once had a yacht and sold it before converting to a dinghy, first a twelve footer similar to my Sarum, but traditionally built in wood. Then he acquired his present Ilur designed and built by François Vivier and very similar to the fishing boats of old. I have sailed on a big modern yacht with five others, and it is another experience, but I enjoy my autonomy on a dinghy. I have never owned a yacht.

I sometimes look at boats for sale, particularly the transportable ones with bilge keels and cabins. Perhaps I could one day have one of those and keep my dinghy. I keep an open mind, but many practical things have to be thought about. I like the old gunter, gaff, lug and sprit rigs rather than the more impersonal bermudan rig with the high mast.

Roger contrasts life on board a yacht and spending a week or so on a dinghy. The latter is very much camping in a minimalist spirit. Yachts are more like caravans with dry and comfortable sleeping accommodation and galley facilities. They are the sort of boats that will appeal more to the wife, who might crew but would be more likely to prefer trailing a fishing line!

Roger has a somewhat poetic style of writing, which is very appealing. I tend to be very prosaic and get frustrated in trying to manage so much the small space limited by the length and beam of a twelve-foot dinghy. Another couple of feet might not seem to make much difference, but it does. The beam increases proportionately, and storage is made so much easier. Every year, I try to make improvements to where I put the safety stuff – accessible when the boat is capsized and mast-down (God forbid!). Most of the stuff in the forward compartment is connected with tent, bed and dry clothes in two dry bags. I have compartments for the galley, personal items and tools. I still get my feet encumbered by water and petrol cans. Roger by principle doesn’t use an engine. I do when I really need my old British Seagull, where an opposing wind and tide make rowing too hard going.

In the end, it all depends on how long you want to be out and where you want to go. Dinghies are limited to sheltered waters or the open sea in fair weather. A dinghy can be moored or dried out just about anywhere, as can a bilge keel yacht. I too notice the number of yachts occupying all the places in a marina, and hardly ever put to sea. People find they run out of money and time. Dinghies are much more DIY, and they go on a trailer in your own property, thus saving on mooring fees. I would be less quick to say like Roger that one is better than the other. It depends on what you want and what you can afford.

I would certainly like a larger boat that what I have. Perhaps one day, and that will give time to decide what I want to look for. The Ilur is a lovely boat, as is the Drascombe Lugger. We’ll see. Perhaps the next boat will be called Eboracum or one of the names of Gregorian neumes like Porrectus or Scandicus like monks call their livestock! Perhaps it will be the name of one of the lakes of my native Lake District like Grasmere, Rydal or Windermere. For the time being, it is Sarum.

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The Patrimony and Romanticism

I received a very kind e-mail about my last posting on what we continuing Anglicans are continuing. The correspondent in question is a priest in the Church of England but in the Forward in Faith jurisdiction. I think two paragraphs of that e-mail can be reproduced here without breaking any confidences:

I have just read your latest post. Full of good sense. The best of the Ordinariate are now, in the quest for “the patrimony”, pretty well all on the same page and exploring the same themes – the power of romanticism, its place in our history, and its potential for renewal etc. (Some are even a bit less snooty toward those who have not joined the Ordinariate, and renewing older friendships!) The Francis papacy is not all bad, but it is ensuring a rediscovery of the authentic theology and history of the primacy, and the question of what it’s all for. (Fr Tillard may well now be read by a new generation!) Some (not all!) who went to the Ordinariate were attracted in part by the most unfortunate aspects of triumphalist counter reformation Rome. They tended not to be well enough versed in the actual writings of Joseph Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict to know that he himself was never a “maximalist” with regard to the Primacy. I cannot believe he didn’t know that his “retirement” would help “demythologise” the primacy as part of the excruciatingly difficult process of its renewal.


Keep up the ministry with the blog. There was a time not so long ago when I thought that only Tracey Rowland (who wrote and lectured so movingly about romanticism and the nouvelle theologians – even including the impact of John Henry Newman’s writings on the young Joseph Ratzinger!-) and I were the only people left who could see the moving of the Spirit in the great romantic movement.

It was the impression I had of the Ordinariate clergy I met in Oxford, including Monsignori John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham. I personally congratulated the latter for his comments on Romanticism in his talk, in which I wrote Msgr Andrew Burnham and Romanticism.

(….) what drove High Churchmen, at least from the nineteenth century on, at least in part, was the romantic movement. In that sense æsthetics led theology by the nose.

He was kind enough to talk with me for a few minutes in the north quire aisle of the church over a cup of coffee. It was the story of my own conversion. My love for church buildings, organs and choirs preceded my interest in theology and spirituality. The “icon” of God brought me to God. This is of paramount importance in an age when many clergy believe that beauty should be abolished as an act of penance of the western white race. This theme is (he is still alive) uppermost in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, a German cradle Roman Catholic and a Romantic.

My correspondent mentions Fr Tillard, whose lectures on the Trinity (mostly from the Eastern Orthodox point of view) I attended as a student at Fribourg University. His real subject was ecclesiology, and I have his book Eglise d’Eglises, L’écclésiologie de communion (Paris 1987). I had every admiration for him, and he always had a kind word at oral examinations in the way of a spiritual counsel. We need the ressourcement school of theology also with authors like Louis Bouyer, Josef Ratzinger and Dom Odo Casel. I have a feeling that the leadership of the English Ordinariate may well go down this path with some original studies and scholarship.

Tracey Rowland needs reading. So far I have only read her Ratzinger’s Faith, The Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, Oxford 2008. In this book, she makes several references to Romanticism. For example, on page 6: 

Perhaps because so many of the questions raised by the Existentialists and the so-called Modernists were products of the nineteenth-century Romantic movement in Germany, Ratzinger, Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, and other German-speaking theologians of their generation were able to see that something more than Neo-Scholasticism was needed to address what were fundamentally Romantic movement issues in a period of European history when Christianity appeared to have run its course. To put this point another way, if the central interests of the Romantics were history, tradition, beauty, individuality, and self-development, a Catholic response to this tradition needed to address these themes. Many Thomists who taught in seminaries in the first half of the twentieth century did not go near these topics, either out of a lack of interest or because of a fear of being suspected of Modernism. For seminarians like Alfred Lapple and Ratzinger, the writings of Newman and the Fathers of the Church provided a refuge and a treasury wherein one could safely reflect upon these topics.

I am thankful for my alma mater, Fribourg University, that for the most part taught this kind of neo-patristic and ressourcement theology. The Romantic element dawned on me as I found a common source, not only of a renewed philosophical and theological movement, but also art and beauty. I now do this work as a priest in the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province. Not being a charismatic personality, I am no leader – but I seem to be able to convey ideas that others will make into a dynamic movement. Each to his own gifts…

* * *

Update – a few articles by Tracey Rowland on Newman’s influence on Pope Benedict XVI

It all reminds me of that enormously optimistic period in the late 2000’s and up to about 2011 when we were all discussing the meaning and interpretation of Anglicanorum coetibus. Tracey Rowland seemed to whittle everything down to Newman, who was without doubt a character in the Romantic movement, and the theological mind of Josef Ratzinger. The latter was always extremely careful about what he said and wrote given his position as a senior cleric in the Vatican. Rowland draws from the greater Romantic tradition when analysing what seemed to matter most in the era of Benedict XVI.

My own impression of Newman was that of someone who was extremely talented but naïve when he left the Oxford Movement to become a Roman Catholic. Keble and Pusey were also pillars of the Oxford Movement, and remained Anglicans. Newman is hailed as an example of the model convert to inspire hundreds of Anglican intellectuals who became Roman Catholics. It is easy to become swept into a movement that isn’t ours!

The idea of seeing Romantic influence is nothing new to me. I was particular influenced by Fr Guy Bedouelle’s church history seminar at Fribourg on Liberalism, for which I prepared a topic on Félicité de Lamennais. I would only discover the influence of Romanticism when I bought Bernard Reardon’s Religion in the Age of Romanticism (Cambridge 1985). This book and a number of other works by Russian philosophers like Berdyaev and Catholic Modernists like George Tyrrell shattered my last links with Thomism, driving me to neo-Platonism and all that implies. That turning point marked me ever since, with Newman a little more in the background as I became increasing alienated from Roman Catholicism in the John Paul II era.

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What are we trying to continue?

Some time ago, I resolved to step down from the sterile polemics with our friend in California – yes, you know who. I won’t give the link this time. He has noticed that the American Episcopal Church has decided to eliminate all gender language from its Prayer Book. Shocked? We can only conclude their final capitulation to modern secularism and identity politics, the leveller of institutional stupidity.

The “regular correspondent” chained continuing Anglicanism to its progenitor, the Anglican Communion. Continuing Anglicanism could only follow the same decline and fate. Perhaps so, as we observe in all institutional churches including the Roman Catholics – at least under the present Pontificate.

I keep a certain sympathy with the Ordinariate, at least the one in England. I had my only contact with them at the Oxford conference last April, and found them to be serious and purposeful. They have ordained ten priests this year, whom I assume to have been properly trained and examined. As things went in about 2011 and up to the abdication of Benedict XVI, I didn’t go that way. I waited for Archbishop Hepworth’s endgame to play out, and waited a little longer, knowing that I didn’t matter to anyone. I was quietly received into the ACC by Bishop Damien Mead in April 2013 and continued my ministry of the word through blogging and The Blue Flower. I have expressed my view about conversion to Roman Catholicism on several occasions. If I did so again, what good to it do to myself or others, considering that I would have to give up the priesthood and revert to being a layman? Being a priest isn’t a sine qua non to salvation, if that is what it’s all about, but Christian life is all about doing better things, making wiser decisions – and not slumping into a nihilistic attitude in life.

The Ordinariate people have been quite concerned at defining Anglican Patrimony, as I heard in Oxford. Benedict XVI, a German cradle Roman Catholic, was also interested in this notion in the plan of regenerating European Catholicism. After all, he had to try. Now, Christianity has to be a part of secular humanism, something like in the eighteenth century without the baroque culture, and surrender to the latest trends of modernity. Perhaps it might turn to the way of Evangelical and Reformed mega-churches and work through celebrity worship and techniques of marketing. Ugh! Monsignor Andrew Burnham nailed it on the head by identifying Romanticism as the power source of the Oxford Movement, medievalism and a new convergence between “northern” Catholicism and a ressourcement and renewal movement amidst the ruins of popular Catholicism and attempts to imitate the Evangelicals.

Hopeless! – our “friend” would triumphantly proclaim. American Catholicism seems to have a stronger infrastructure of suburban lacklustre parishes than England or most of Europe. This side of the Atlantic, the only thriving parishes are in Paris or run by the “new” communities. I visited a church a few days ago and saw the green mould on the floor and the rotting furniture. The building was only exceptionally open!

I cannot speak for the Ordinariates, because I am not one of them, nor have I ever been. I am less pessimistic than our “friend”. I willingly give the link to the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog which gives news about all three of the Ordinariates. After all, I say, if something is doing the Lord’s work, who am I to judge? I wouldn’t seek to join them even if by some miracle my priestly vocation could be “saved”, but they exist and minister.

We in the Continuing Churches also do what we can without the supposedly well-oiled structures in America and of course the money that says everything. I am not sure we will survive for very long. In England we are very fragile and very much depend on the Bishop we have. We are slowly building, and we might make it beyond our own lifetimes – but perhaps not. Does it matter in view to the dangers human civilisation and the natural environment face? My optimism is also mitigated there. However, I know that we have moved beyond “infighting and factionalism” and refer more to Catholicism without any other adjective or the post-Tridentine ideology rather than our past parochialism. I turned to Romanticism for the same reason as men like Novalis, a yearning for the cosmopolitan, the light and broad-mindedness. We made mistakes in the past through our petty ambitions, and now we need to build on the foundations we have been able to establish.

I see our identity in what we are called to do rather than the simple conservation of our nostalgic past in this or that parish. I have not been allowed by circumstances of life to be a pastor. I have experience of French parish life, with the few old priests I have known – but that was not to be my ministry. I do what I can do. I have always been aware that I have given ideas to others who then reaped the benefits. So that seems to be my vocation, to give ideas to others and live my little life in less than ideal circumstances, but which could be much worse.

What would I like to see happen in our Church, Rome and elsewhere? I will express it in positive terms rather than what we need to be rid of. We need Catholicism, not Roman, Anglo, or whatever. Just Catholicism. The way I see things is how the Oxford Movement had ideas in common with the Old Catholic movement in Germany and Switzerland deriving from the Council of Constance. It is a notion of a “medieval” Church without the corruption and the domination of secular power. Gallicanism survived the Revolution but only continued in fragmentary form until the mid nineteenth century, Vatican II and the deaths of the last old parish priests. It is a Romantic idea, not realist, because it can’t be implemented by means of laws and reforms. Such a vision would be snuffed out under modern Rome. We have to be independent, yet in coherent Churches.

So far, some of us are still writing and the conversation continues. My chapel will die when I do, and I intend to leave all my “stuff”  to my Diocese, assuming it outlives me. I hope it will! I hope to be able to leave my writings and a few books to gather dust somewhere or be read for what they are worth. I am not a celebrity.

Again, it is the grain of wheat in the earth and the conditions for bearing fruit.

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Medievalism and Ritualism

This is the kind of article I would have appreciated in the first issue of The Blue FlowerMedievalism and Ritualism – Part 1: Percy Dearmer and the scholarly context of the Parson’s Handbook has been written by Fr Allan Barton who is a priest in the Church of England. “Part 1” implies that there will be at least a Part 2 to look forward to. I found the link up on my Use of Sarum group on Facebook, which now has more than eight hundred members.

Perhaps we can call this the “other” Anglican Patrimony as opposed to the more Roman and post-Tridentine style preferred by many Anglican churches. Enough of the old feuds like in English Roman Catholic seminaries in the 1940’s! But we need to dialogue and rejoice in our diversity which is also part of the Anglican way.

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