Anglo-Catholic conspiracies?

The author of More On Anglican Papalism seems to have bitten off a little more than he can chew when attempting a criticism of English Anglo-Papalism. It just doesn’t seem to match what I have experienced in my native country. Admittedly, my first contact with that tendency in London only happened around 1979 and not in the time scale he mentions (1900 to 1960).

The motivating premiss is the same: those who don’t convert to “ordinary” novus ordo Roman Catholicism, like he has done, are at best insincere and trash at worst. There should be no traditionalist groups or ordinariates – just the flat boring fare of “viable” American parishes. Indeed, “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.” I digress by comparing “corporate” Catholicism with Orwell’s dystopia! My world view is Romantic and Mr Bruce’s is Classical (or what has evolved from classicism).

The criticism revolves around several points:

  • Anglo-Papalism was a clerical movement, not a lay movement,
  • Latin was used instead of English,
  • It was a refuge for gay priests,
  • Anglo-Papalists were involved in the occult,
  • These problems were at the root of the “disappointing outcome of Anglicanorum coetibus“.

I have the book by Michael Yelton and read it quite some time ago, so will not go into that now. I will merely rely on first-hand knowledge and memories of what I have read about the period whose last year coincided with the first of my own life.

The Church of England in all its “churchmanships” (snake-belly low to sky high) is as much of a clerical and bureaucratic organisation as the Roman Catholic Church. The ecclesiastical structures correspond more or less with the pre-Reformation Church. The laity have tended to be consulted more through parish vestries and councils. Anglo-Catholicism of all colours was more an effect of cosmopolitan city life and cultural Romanticism, not in the country where ordinary folk were (and still are) conservative. Most country churches were restored in the nineteenth century to Tractarian standards, but remained “middle of the road” in terms of liturgical services and doctrine. Anglo-Papalism is mostly confined to London, Brighton and one or two other south coast towns. In London, the main parishes involved were St Alban’s Holborn, St Magnus the Martyr near London (not Tower) Bridge and St Mary’s Bourne Street. All Saints Margaret Street was more English and less pseudo Roman Catholic. To my knowledge, only Bourne Street and St Magnus had Mass in Latin. The others were using the English Missal before adopting the Novus Ordo or the Alternative Services Book in the 1970’s.

The claim that Latin in the liturgy was widespread (other than choral music) is exaggerated. I never came across it personally in the Church of England.

Homosexuality is widespread in the Anglo-Catholic movement, and some parishes fit the caricatures. Perhaps in recent years it has calmed down somewhat as efforts are made to preserve the credibility of the parishes concerned as incumbents come and go. The celibate priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church too has traditionally been a “refuge” for homosexually inclined men, whether they were “active” or refrained from having relations with other persons for the integrity of their priestly vocation. I have known some pretty disgusting priests in the Church of England, but also in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a matter for bishops to deal with, and I am just not interested in the lives of other people if they are not causing harm or molesting children and adolescents. In the end, it seems to be a non sequitur.

As for involvement in the occult, spiritualism, communication with the dead, etc., I have never come across it in England (or anywhere else). I don’t know where Mr Bruce got this idea. Perhaps it needs to be studied. Occultism, theosophy and other related themes were in fashion in the late nineteenth century, a by-product of the darker instincts of Romanticism. I know of no formal link between such groups and Anglo-Catholic parishes. I have read conspiracy theories involving the Oxford Movement and the Catholic movement in the Church of England, something not far removed from the idea of Newman and Pusey belonging to some dastardly secret society – clearly nonsense.

These “problems” are far from being established even with Church of England Anglo-Catholicism (Papalism), and so it would be difficult to blame difficulties in the ordinariates on them. The problems came as much from the ambiguous approaches of Rome, the TAC and the former Anglican Communion clergy. For example, I have not heard of any problems due to homosexuality, since most of the clergy involved are in stable marriages with wives and families. The real problems are to be identified with the difficulties Pope Benedict XVI had with the more “conservative” elements of the Roman Curia, not to mention certain associations of “liberal” clergy now coming to light.

Mr Bruce rightly makes a distinction between Anglo-Papalists and Anglo-Catholics, the latter using vestments and other Catholic trappings but conforming to the Prayer Book. The use of the Anglican Missal and the English Missal was more blurred and across the board than Mr Bruce thinks. This is the case in continuing Anglican jurisdictions like the ACC and the TAC.

It is interesting to note that Anglo-Papalism saw itself as a pro-uniate movement, a “turnkey” movement that had only to be recognised and regularised by Rome when the time was right. This aspiration certainly motivated the English ordinariate, since most of the clergy were of this tendency. In the Continuing Anglican world, Archbishop Hepworth, believed to be a major player until about 2011, was of this tendency – but is also a former Roman Catholic priest and not a “cradle” Anglican. Looking at it all from the outside, it seems irrelevant to all outside Anglo-Papalist circles. None of the other Continuing Churches were remotely interested. See A response from the ACC to Rome’s Offer to Former Anglicans by Archbishop Mark Haverland dating from 9th November 2009.

One thing Mr Bruce seems to have forgotten is a by-product of the more marginal tendencies of Anglo-Catholicism / Papalism – irregular bishops (episcopi vagantes) deemed to be validly consecrated according to Augustinian criteria and using their “lines of succession” to confer orders on Anglican clergy that Rome would have to recognise. These activities were going on in the 1890’s and 1900’s on account of the bull of Leo XIII Apostolicae Curae proclaiming that Anglican orders were invalid, thereby halting the uniate movement in its tracks. The ephemeral Order of Corporate Reunion still has a more or less virtual existence. Present-day independent bishops and churches come in all shapes and sizes, and I will go into this subject no further.

Certainly, these points merit research and nothing can be over-simplified.

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7 Responses to Anglo-Catholic conspiracies?

  1. Stephen K says:

    Dear Father, everything you have said rings true, if you can accept that, as a native Roman Catholic, and not, like you, a native Anglican, my perspective on the issue must be ‘from the outside” and not ‘from the inside’, so to speak. But, that disclaimer aside, let me venture a few propositions, based on my own experience.

    • Homosexuality is not always obvious – not every homo is a campy dress-up queen.

    • Homosexuality is not intrinsically equivalent to sheer bullying or bastardry – there are many heterosexual neurotics and psychotics in both the Anglican and Roman churches.

    • It seems truer than not to expect that high-dress-up-traditionalism (whether RC or CofE) will attract and be populated per capita more by campy queens than puritan or low-dress-down modernism (which makes comments by people like Cardinal Ray Burke about the ‘feminisation’ of modern liturgy ridiculous).

    • Rubrical purity is an obsession of anal retentive personalities, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

    • Not every heterosexual or homosexual traditionalist is a neurotic or unhealthy religionist.

    • Native Roman Catholics – like all species of religionists, irrespective of the content of their catechesis – think anyone else is “not the full quid”; i.e. Native Roman Catholics see no real meaningful difference between Anglo-Papalists and Anglo-Catholics.

    • The Ordinariates don’t even hit the radar of native Roman Catholics, whether modernist or traditionalist – they are completely irrelevant, i.e. more so than Melkites or Maronites etc.

    • To a native Roman Catholic, even the “highest” or most “Papalist” of Anglicans is still a “Prot”.

    I won’t go on. I will say that I personally do not think Anglicans of most stripes are mere “Prots”. I think, for example, that Romans are also “Prots”. I think, in fact, that the only “true” Catholic is a species that has certainly not existed since the protestant reformation, and probably not since the 4th century or thereabouts. So, any criticisms of Anglo-Papalists or Anglo-Catholics are, in my view, very small beer indeed.

    But perhaps my dear co-readers have some thoughts about this topic?

    • I think we have experienced things in different ways, not least by your having come from a Roman Catholic family and myself from an Anglican family in which little importance was given to religious practice.

      Some people get all steamed up about homosexuality. I think the big problem is that it becomes a marker to affirm a given person’s identity and the group he belongs to. We all need identity markers to some extent: nationality, ethnic origins, taste in music, preferred sports, anything. We above all need to be ourselves without depending too much on outer symbols, though we all use such symbols to some extent. It is a question of degree. What people do in bed in private is just not my concern – unless someone comes to me as a priest and asks for the position of the Church. The most mature homosexuals or any kind of [n]sexuals are the ones we don’t know anything about.

      An English cathedral organist was asked whether one of his pupils was AC / DC (bisexual). The answer was “I don’t know if he’s any kind of ‘C’ at all, but I’m sure he is the epitome of discretion. ‘Bye.” A real gentleman.

      I have come across people with silly ideas about liturgical tat (eg. lace albs and surplices) but actual fetishism for such objects seems to me to be rare. It tends to be an inordinate preoccupation for some seminarians. When I once worked at Rowntree’s (now Nestlé), the foreman said that we could eat as much chocolate as we wanted provided that we didn’t take it away from the factory. It takes about 3 days to become absolutely sick of eating chocolate. Very little of the company’s product is lost in this way! The parallel is seen. We shouldn’t worry about whether people “like” liturgical tat, because a deeper view of Christian practice will follow on if the person is left to develop without authoritarian intervention.

      “Feminisation” of the liturgy is a term that is completely foreign to me. Women do not dress up in liturgical tat. They wear women’s clothes. I suppose more women than men are involved in parishes. Men are attracted to different things, but the “Romantic” type is attracted to finer things than most women. For example, there are few women composers…

      Rubrical purity is an obsession of anal retentive personalities, whether heterosexual or homosexual.” ???? Adrian Fortescue once said that you have to incense an altar somehow. It does not hurt to be told how to do it. I don’t think that being “neat and tidy” at work is anything like a sexual fetish. There can also be excessive rubricism, which is not good. As with tat, just let people grow up and discover new and deeper things as they go.

      Identity markers also govern different types of Anglo-N’s. It seems silly to me too. Yes, “real” Roman Catholics find all that stuff amusing or daft. We in the Continuing Churches have left it all behind.

      I too will be interested in reading other constructive views, perhaps also as gentlemanly as that cathedral organist I mentioned.

      • Stephen K says:

        “An English cathedral organist was asked whether one of his pupils was AC / DC. The answer was “I don’t know if he’s any kind of ‘C’ at all, but I’m sure he is the epitome of discretion. ‘Bye.” A real gentleman.”

        I loved that. I hope you can pardon the sweeping flavour of my hypotheses: I was reacting to some of the author’s statements and after some contemplation of the Ordinariate to which he referred. I myself could not see why the author should have singled out Anglo-Catholicism for his criticisms. My aim was not to emphatically criticise homosexuality per se but to highlight some RC “DNA” attitudes that ought to have taken into account. One of the unhealthier attitudes stems from the ingrained idea that it – and it alone – is the Church founded by Jesus Christ and it crops up in various ways and places , even among non-RCs!

        By the way, your term “excessive rubricism” expresses much better what I meant by “rubrical purity” because like you I think that if you are going to do something you should do it well, whilst keeping in mind that in the religious /liturgical sphere we need to strive to keep a balance and recognise there are competing values between form and substance.

  2. Dale says:

    Actually laughed out loud at this one: “This is not compatible with Roman Catholicism, which does not ordain men who are actively gay.” Has this man not been paying attention to the most recent news from our separated Roman brethren? Can he really be living in such a bubble of his own making?

  3. ed pacht says:

    The basic subject of this post is one to my interest, and I may come back with some substantive comments later, but I find it very difficult to respond to something that begins with Mr. Bruce’s ravings. I have read little elsewhere that is as full of half-truths, untruths, and deliberate misunderstandings as are the words that he ceaselessly spews out. He seems to write from a viewpoint of unrelieved rage that leads him to focus on specifics that may or may not contain truth and to reject knowledge of anything that threatens his preconceptions. Yes, Dale, the man does indeed live in a bubble of his own making, and he does lash out unthinkingly without a bit of care (perhaps without a shred of knowledge) concerning how much harm he may do to others in the name of his own perceptions.

    • Michael Frost says:

      Yes, Ed! I take great exception to this modern attempt to smear Archbishop Laud, martyr, as put on John’s recent blog posting: “On the other hand, as Diarmaid MacCulloch and others have pointed out, Anglo-Catholicism has been a refuge for gay priests from the start (he has his questions about William Laud), and that goes the more for Anglo-Papalists.” It might be more accurate to say that Diarmaid MacCulloch, who is post-Christian in great part over homosexuality, sees whatever he wants to see wherever he wants to see it in regard to homosexuality in light of his own subjective biases, sexual and otherwise!

  4. Stephen K says:

    By the way, this posting of yours, Father, comes as a coincidence, because only the other day, I began reading a 1929 novel called “The Anglo-Catholic” by Shane Leslie (Baronet Sir John Leslie), which is a story about a young man working through his religious convictions. It is a sequel to “The Cantab”, which I have not been able to find so far. I haven’t yet got very far, but it promises to cover the various issues over which the Tractarian and Ritualist movements evolved and influenced the author’s generation. Has anyone else read this?

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