Manifestation of Conscience

Update: I have just discovered that the text in question is still on Facebook. Therefore, it is attached to the bottom of this posting as a “footnote”.

* * *

Things on Facebook come and go with such speed as they can easily be missed, and sometimes a pearl is published, a touching story. A “manifestation of conscience” (as I call it) by Fr Michael LaRue, a priest of the Episcopal Church in America, was particularly poignant. It has now disappeared from Facebook, so I decided it would be seemly for me to take it down. I have maintained this posting for the sake of those who have taken the trouble to write comments.

I have received a couple of e-mails suggesting that things were not quite right in some matters. I have to agree that there have been intemperate suggestions like repressed homosexuality being linked with certain liturgical preferences, an idea to which I do not subscribe at all.

What I did find to be poignant in the text was something I have experienced myself, the pains suffered by those who convert to Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism because conditions in their church or origin became unacceptable. Between the three (Anglicanism being the third), there is a certain amount of two-way traffic, and each person has his reasons and life history.

I think Fr LaRue has a different perspective from mine. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church, so his way back in was fairly easy, and then he could get a paid job as a priest.

The Episcopal Church seems a tall order, and it is for a reason that I am in the ACC and not something like the Church of England. The homosexual “marriage” and women’s “ordination” agendas cannot be swallowed or justified with integrity. I relate badly with institutionalism and bureaucracy.

One possibility is not to care about anything other than one’s own parish – Après moi le déluge. There are many Forward in Faith parishes in England whose ecclesiological situation is tenuous, but those churches are being kept going, and people are being looked after pastorally. It’s not my way, but I understand those who are doing this.

For his aspersions about the Ordinariate, I have no objective opinion, because I keep out and away from it all. It is not my problem, so silence is the best policy in this matter. I suffered too much from the Hepworth deceptions and twisted narratives suited for each person concerned. For me, enough was enough, but it wasn’t the fault of those who founded the Ordinariates.

I can understand the “parish-based” ecclesiology like with the Victorian Ritualists and many French parish priests like Fr Jacques Pecha or the expatriate Fr Montgomery-Wright. It has the positive effect of giving priority to the local community and the human dimension over the bureaucracy and the anonymity of diocesan committees.

People convert to this or that “true church” because they cannot get over the incoherence of their position, but the incoherence exists also on the other side of the fence, river or whatever analogy one uses. The Christian faith and religion are faulty intellectually, and we have to accept the notion of mystery – something that is beyond reason and not against it like in earthly totalitarianism. There is a healthy notion of “holy incertitude”.

I am outside the “mainstream” institutions, but the consequence of being in a continuing Church is that very few lay people come to us. That brings up questions. Are numbers right? Not necessarily. I came to the conclusion that had I been made to be a parish priest with organised responsibilities, this would have happened many years ago. It was not to be. My calling as a priest has another meaning, an internet ministry combined with something of a contemplative life. The continuing churches have a different vocation from that of the “mainstream”. We cannot justify ourselves by saying that the “mainstream” is dead. It isn’t. The churches in towns and cities have substantial congregations and are culturally relevant to those who go to those parishes. They are the people who switch on the TV from the early hours of the morning and whose culture is popular entertainment. That is what they need in the liturgy, just as with with American evangelical mega-churches. Those churches bring people to God. But they don’t bring me to God. I cannot relate to that kind of “extrovert” culture.

I sympathised with Fr LaRue’s article even through I found some notions bizarre and perhaps the result of events in that priest’s personal life. I have known others who have gone to the various churches of the Anglican Communion. I believe in their sincerity and their personal refusal of the homosexual and feminist agendas. They have themselves to live with, and it cannot be my problem.

My schoolmaster once called me hag-ridden in a term report, and it indeed takes years to move on in life and bring good out of adversity and one’s own errors. It is a learning and discovery curve for us all, and we all have our ways to steer the right course and find a favourable wind to fill our sails. Life is too short to be hag-ridden about the past. We have to move on and open ourselves to the way ahead.

* * *

Many people have asked me why I have gone back to the ministry of the Episcopal Church, after spending a number of years living in the Roman Church, and what I am doing back here, as it were. My apologies for not getting this completed earlier, as I had promised. The short answer is that years ago I made a promise as a priest in the Episcopal Church, and am trying to follow my conscience before God in doing so. However, I think I owe you all a fuller explanation.

Among other things, I think I made the mistake of mistaking ideology and this-worldly institution for Tradition and Church. Coming from the Anglo-Catholic tradition, it seems useful to begin there, with some things that may at first seem trivial, and I apologize if this seems round-about, but my argument depends on examining the problem of tradition, and especially of liturgical praxis, since “the law of praying establishes the law of believing.”

I think one serious mistake that many Anglo-Catholics made, that I made, was to take current Roman Rite practice in the Roman Church as their model. We have our own tradition, which goes back to St. Augustine of Canterbury, and that tradition already includes everything of consequence that the Anglo-Catholics strive for. I am not saying we cannot learn from, or even borrow from RC’s (including baroque-style vestments), but the model must be our own tradition. Likewise this does not mean that recovery is not part of the program. It must be our duty to “restore those things that are gone to decay” and I would include among that the venerable Roman Canon. So, while I would not now use the current Roman Missal, I am sympathetic to the English and Anglican Missals, using the latter, which happily provides Sarum options. Latin in the liturgy is another thing we need to revive, although it never fell out entirely, being in use at the two ancient Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, (which also maintained, through its celibate fellows, the spirit of monastic life until the revival of that in the mid- 19th century). I celebrate in Latin as often as I can, that is whenever I am not dealing with a congregation who would be alienated by its use, and for my private prayers use a form of the ancient Roman office that was in use in England prior to the Reformation (key elements of which were likewise long preserved in the universities), and taken up again by religious communities during the Catholic Revival.

To take another problem, taking the position that Anglican-style vestments, with their pre-Reformation origins, are somehow Protestant, seems to me a very un-catholic and sectarian approach into which some Anglo-Catholics have fallen. Many Anglo-Catholics also adopted the Novus Ordo. However, when I look at the Novus Ordo Missae and the ethos that produced it, it seems to me the product of a repressed sexuality, especially homosexual desire, that came out in destructive anger towards the liturgy. (I believe it is sacramentally valid. I believe it can be celebrated reverently, and I know of good priests and congregations that do so—but they are a decided minority.) I would say that there is much about it that is consequently un-catholic. There is a lot in the current Anglican liturgies that is an improvement, but for Anglicans to have taken on so much of the Novus Ordo and its ethos, the whole a deeply flawed and foreign product, and one that is the result of a deeply conflicted and repressed sexuality, seems to me a terrible mistake. To my fellow Anglicans I would say that we need to get over being governed by other people’s neuroses, deal with our own, and get back to the fullness of our own tradition. Further, our approach to Scripture, Tradition, and Reason gives us a much better theoretical basis to address the crisis in human sexuality, if only we will use it.

Some would say that the ordinariates for former Anglicans set up by order of Pope Benedict XVI in Anglicanorum Coetibus allows for us to keep our traditions in union with the Roman Church. However, the fact that the ordinariate in this country does not use Anglican-style vestments, does not use the traditional Anglican lectionary, and was forbidden the use of the traditional Latin liturgical forms, is to me more than sufficient evidence of the un-catholic and sectarian spirit behind its the implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus (though not about the Pope who authored it) , and the un-catholic and sectarian approach of the Bishop’s Conference and the Roman dicasteries, commission, and bureacracy that implemented it. In short, insofar as the presumed goal of the ordinariates was catholicity, they have failed by failing to respect the Anglican tradition, and this reveals a profound and wider failure in the Roman Church—one which made keeping the legitimate traditions that I received impossible.

Nor could I become Orthodox, which means accepting the Byzantine Liturgy and ethos as normative: it is certainly catholic in itself, but its exclusive use to the denial of others is not, and I was raised in and received my faith from the Anglican Tradition, in the Episcopal Church. Nor could I ever in good conscience commit the sin of sacrilege by being absolutely re-ordained in either the Roman or Byzantine churches, as they require, and certainly by the traditional Latin Catholic approach to ordination, I have never had cause to believe that my ordination was invalid.

Just as our ability to keep the sixth through tenth commandments (5th-10th in some numberings) is dependent upon our good will towards our neighbor, as expressed in the tenth commandment, “Do not covet,” so our ability to keep the commandments outlining our duty towards God are, in traditional rabbinical interpretation, dependent upon our keeping the 5th commandment, and honoring our Fathers and Mothers who teach us the faith. (Hence this commandment is reckoned by the Rabbis as part of our duty towards God.) My job as an Anglo-Catholic priest is to keep and pass on the tradition as it was given to me. It is not my job to waste my time worrying about the stupid and wicked things done by my fellow Anglicans, our Bishops, General Convention, or the Archbishop of Canterbury—any more than it is my duty to worry about the stupid and wicked things done by the Pope in Rome and those who work for him. I am bidden to practice and teach the commandments of Christ, the “Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of Christ,” and to do so as the Episcopal Church, a member church of the Anglican Communion, has received them, and it is this to which I have sworn a solemn oath. (If I had been raised and received the faith as a Roman Catholic, or Russian Orthodox, with a particular tradition in that church, which tradition I was sworn to uphold, I would be obliged in conscience to act rather differently.).

The fact that the fundamental unity of the Church of Christ is hidden in this world by heresy and schism is not a problem that I can solve, though it is indeed something I am obliged to work for and help correct: I am not allowed as a Christian to accept or settle for division as normal, but am to do all I can to work the visible manifestation of the unity of the Church. I pray regularly, especially and particularly , for my own bishop and the bishop of the diocese in which I am resident, but also for all Christians including especially the Roman Pontiff as first among the bishops and Patriarch of the West — and in doing that manifest at least in my prayer the communion that is not now visible. However, as a catholic Christian, I can only work for that unity by keeping the commandments, and that includes the commandment to honor the tradition that I have received, and those who passed it on to me, which leaves me only one moral option at this moment, and that is to be the most faithful Christian priest I can be, and to do so in the Episcopal Church.

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13 Responses to Manifestation of Conscience

  1. Timothy Graham says:

    The paragraph on the Ordinariate seems perceptive enough: but “was forbidden the use of the traditional Latin liturgical forms”? Surely that can’t be correct?

  2. Some interesting points, with a few head-scratchers. I can’t tell what he means by “exclusive use [of the Byzantine rite] to the denial of others”: he surely can’t be unaware of the WR Orthodox option in the United States. Nor am I sure what he means by “Anglican-style vestments” being rejected as too Protestant. If he’s just talking about a more Gothic cut, then those certainly aren’t unknown in the ordinariate. (If he means surplice and scarf, then of course they *are* Protestant!)

    The bit about the Novus Ordo being a product of latent homosexuality made my jaw drop. I’ve found trad RC circles to be positively redolent with camp, while laicized married priests in organizations like Corpus – as well as the formerly Anglican priests I’ve met who were received pre-Anglicanorum – are all heavily N.O. (The film Priest, with the earnestly traditional-leaning and closeted young curate and the radical middle-aged pastor living in concubinage, pretty accurately reflected this dynamic, in my experience).

    • Yes, I agree with you that Fr LaRue’s ideas on sexual repression are surprising. They are his opinion, not mine. I can understand his returning to the Episcopal Church as he was ordained in it, but women’s ordination is a big problem. I left the Church of England as a layman and am a Continuing Anglican priest. The essential of his posting was to recommend the default position of staying in the church (institution or tradition) of one’s childhood rather than looking for a “true” church to convert to. I wouldn’t endorse every word of this piece. It’s all up for discussion.

    • Dale says:

      “I can’t tell what he means by “exclusive use [of the Byzantine rite] to the denial of others”: he surely can’t be unaware of the WR Orthodox option in the United States”; I sincerely doubt that anyone still considers the so-called western rite in Orthodoxy as anything more than the joke it has proven itself to be.

  3. William Tighe says:

    One thought, and one question. The thought – women’s “ordination.” The question – why “Episcopalian” rather than “Continuing” Anglican?

  4. I would agree with both Fr. LaRue and Mr. McLarney on the odd sexuality endemic in both the Novus Ordo and post Vatican II Tridentine priesthood. My suspicions are that tendency was established and endemic at least by the early 20th century in North American and European RC communities. In short, I suspect that rather than being caused by Vatican II, it long predated it.

    What I suspect happened is that we had the misfortune of having Vatican II happen at the same time that the causes of the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ (i.e., the increasing secularization of society, antibiotics which could prevent most STDs, and effective oral contraceptives) had borne their odd fruit by the 1960s. The previously closeted priests, who probably disliked the strictures of Latin and a pattern of Mass that chided their vices, dropped both like live hand grenades once the ‘New Mass’ came in.

    But I find Fr. LaRue’s insight as to the N.O. Mass helpful as regards why it went so terribly wrong. Not that it could not be a holy and good thing in itself, but because most of those celebrating that Mass were indulging in camp whilst doing so. Just as (and as Mr. McLarney has noted) most of the young trad spoiled priests these days are indulging in tat. Both spring from the same, er, peculiar causes.

    That said, however, I thank you, Fr. Chadwick, for presenting the point of view of Fr. LaRue. It makes your own position far more sympathetic and understandable to this (trad) Eastern Catholic.

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