Britain’s Ordinariate is in peril. Here is how to save it. I thought the English Ordinariate was doing well compared with the American one, if we can trust that old curmudgeon John Bruce banging his drum to get everyone into his mould of boring run-of-the-mill Roman Catholicism for what’s left of the suburban middle class. Another article in the same journal seems a little more optimistic. The ordinariate was once a distant dream. Now I cannot imagine any other existence. If John Bruce’s What Problem Is Anglicanorum Coetibus Trying To Solve? reflects reality, then I suppose that Benedict XVI is truly out with the trash, and times have changed. Update: see No Happy Face At The Catholic Herald.
An enriching visit to a magnificent Ordinariate church struck a note of nostalgia from my week in Portsmouth in October 2007 when Archbishop Hepworth seemed so influential with his close-knit college of bishops. It all crumbled away as we had to see the reality of dealing with the Vatican. As late as October 2010, I was allowed to celebrate a Sarum Mass at the Lady altar of St Agatha’s church. Now, I wouldn’t bother even asking.
I look at Ordinariate news very rarely. They probably look at my blog from time to time without admitting to their unhealthy curiosity. All I ever get to know is that a number N. of URL addresses in England looked at my blog. A former brother priest and a good friend has been (re)ordained to the diaconate in the Ordinariate – Ian Westby was ordained deacon on July 21st. He had a very successful parish up in Yorkshire in his TAC days. I cannot imagine what he went through for all these years. I convey my congratulations to him.
I will not forget from the heady years of 2011 and 2012 that the Ordinariate was intended for clerics leaving the Church of England, and a few TAC clerics who had never been Roman Catholics were appended as an afterthought. The general ethos of those two groups was what I would be tempted to describe as a “potted artificial Roman Catholicism” such as never existed in the RC Church. It is the reverse side of Romanticism, just like Sarum revivalism, which presents an ideal without any relation to reality. At the same time, what is reality? Isn’t reality too harsh and cruel to bear? Is not religion in general an escape from reality as the materialistic atheists claim? What is reality? Would our banker or local MP give the best answer, our priest, ourselves? I tend to see everything as a hologram whose existence is simply universal consciousness, and that “matter” is an illusion. It seems “real” enough to us because we are a part of the illusion.
Many articles were written in the early twentieth century about “English” Anglo-Catholicism, the “Old High Church” and “Anglo-Papalism”. The subject is rather tired now, and the Ordinariate seems to have lost its relevance with the abdication of Benedict XVI. The burning issue now seems to be the Islamic threat.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti wants churches destroyed – it’s time for the West to rethink relations. “Unless Western powers show they care about human rights they will be exposed as hypocrites”. This article is chilling because the opinion is not from Daesh but from the equivalent in Arabian Islam of the Archbishop of Canterbury. We have known for a long time that Saudi Arabia practices mutilation, torture and public executions (mostly by beheading) – and the west continues to deal with that country in diplomatic terms. Our hypocrisy, as with our failure to take responsibility for the crimes of our own countries, will have only one outcome – our transition to an Islamic Caliphate. I will probably be dead by the time that happens, but what do we tell our children and grandchildren?
Perhaps it is that “reality” that will encourage us to retreat into our catacombs, our little chapels and old liturgical forms no one cares about other than ourselves. Whether it is Sarum, Tridentine or some version of Cranmer’s Prayer Book, there is precious little difference. There is no such thing as “culturally relevant” Christianity. Many things will happen before we get our heads chopped off. Rome and other European cities would be devastated after years of civil war. Only then would they come looking for us in the countryside. All that would take about fifty years according to current predictions.
Like the rest of us in Continuing Churches and suchlike, the Ordinariates will be minorities with quirks like the traditionalists of the Fraternity of St Peter, the Institute of Christ the King and a number of monastic and religious communities. What is “true church” or not will become less and less of an issue, though groups in a state of extreme decomposition tend to become increasingly paranoid about their canonical legitimacy rather than in terms of theology. The moribund Petite Eglise (article in French) in France (as opposed to episcopi vagantes from the late nineteenth century) is an example. The whole situation makes me think of the dried-out bones in the desert waiting for life in Ezekiel 37. No one has any cause for triumphalism.
I little food for sober thought…