As promised, since I am well advanced with my translation orders that have to be delivered tomorrow. I have done about 26,000 words in only four days, but with the help of automatic translation – a very good and intuitive programme – which I have only to post-edit to give the human translation the customer is paying for. That’s quite a lot of work, so I’ll get this little one in.
The new article of Fr Jonathan is this:
Like him, I am living quite remotely and risk losing sight of reality with only the material on the Internet to inform me. I can get impressions of people that are probably very wrong because I have never met them. It is a temptation to construct a personality from partial information. Like Fr Jonathan, I don’t want to sound anti-American, because I am not. Human beings live in other countries too, and we all fall short and fall for the temptation of intolerance and being simplistic.
I agree that our conduct on the Internet should not compromise the efforts our Bishops are making to unite our Churches in the spirit of the Congress of St Louis. We do have that responsibility. I have already commented on the limited diversity of liturgical rites used in our Churches, beginning with the widely-used Anglican Missal and English Missal. We are all united in publicly celebrating the liturgy in classical so-called “Cranmerian” English, meaning the formal idiom of the early seventeenth century and thereabouts. What would be clearly heterogenous would be the use of modern English like in the RC Novus Ordo or the various Anglican books published in the 1970’s. In spite of our diversity between the 1928 American book, the Anglican Missal and the Warren translation of the Sarum Missal I use, we all use the Coverdale Psalter, the King James Bible (with Apocrypha) and those prayers translated by Cranmer directly from the Latin Sarum books. Our fidelity to the Prayer Book is seen in these terms rather than the idea of using the truncated explicitly Protestant rite of Holy Communion from the 1662 Prayer Book – which is not in use in our Diocese.
Perhaps these points will be cleared up, hopefully by the Bishops and our canonists legislating according to pre-existing custom, which is the usual way of canon law. But, that is for them, not for us simple priests. This issue of the Prayer Book has been a point of agony and cognitive dissonance for a very long time, through the days of pompous Victorian gentlemen with enormous moustaches boasting their philistine masculinity to the rejected English 1928 Prayer Book project. By the early twentieth century, the choice was that of Percy Dearmer, like what the Fathers of the London Oratory do with the Novus Ordo, becoming Roman Catholic or introducing pre-Reformation or Roman Catholic rites into Anglican parishes. In the Church of England, it made for an indisciplined Church with a parish-based ecclesiology prevailing over diocesan and episcopal theology. We in the ACC, fortunately, don’t have to deal with Protestant and Latitudinarian bishops. Many of us would not have joined the ACC if the Prayer Book were the only rite available, having to be interpreted in a “Percy Dearmer” kind of way: do all the ceremonies in a pre-Reformation way, but don’t deviate from the texts or add to them. For my part, I was honest and up-front when I applied to Bishop Damien Mead and his Board of Ministry – and I was let in!
We are often tempted to see our vocation as “saving the Church” and fighting against heresy. I have come to see things differently, like with the moral issues in our society, even those concerning human life and the integrity of the human genome. As priests, we have no power to change anything in this world. I think Fr Jonathan understands this with his expression of the Benedict Option idea insofar as it can be adapted for our situation. It is deeply discouraging to live in a place where no one is remotely interested in what we offer or teach. Our treasure is their garbage. How can we expect to change their behaviour when what they do would be unacceptable in a Christian context? We can’t beat them and we are not inclined to join them! We are marginalised and living in the catacombs like English people who convert to Buddhism or Hinduism. There comes a time when we become overloaded by the polemics and “identity politics” and all the stuff buzzing around on Facebook.
As priests coming from elsewhere, we find more in common with the ACC than anything else. Our Churches are essentially manifestations of the traditionalist reaction from a notion in the Anglican Communion that would reduce all religion to a civil level and conventional morality based on changing trends and identity politics. Gone would be the spiritual and contemplative dimension, to be replaced by entertainment and social partying. We can’t legislate or police them – but we can try to do better ourselves without getting upset because our way is not contagious!
We live in total indifference and occasional hostility. However, some souls are curious about the paranormal and science, and cannot accept the idea of annihilation at physical death. Instead of seeing such ideas as competitors against Christian monotheistic orthodoxy, we can try to understand some of these approaches. It must be difficult to be a hard-core atheist and live with one’s extremely narrow view of life – because there is the fact of death. Most people know that spending millions to have your brain frozen and one day plugged into a machine is complete rubbish. When the brain is dead, is is dead, gestorben, mort, defuncto, kaputt, you name it. The spirit is still alive, but the hard atheist denies its existence. We have to diversify, widen, without denying anything we believe to be true and wholesome. “Liberal” religion is political. Our is contemplative and concerned with our higher life. I do believe that this is where continuing Anglicanism should be going with our traditional liturgy and contemplative approach to God.
I used to be familiar with the idea of traditionalist Roman Catholics getting all their buildings back. But are pre-Reformation church buildings their property? I think not. Their owners went along with the Reformation, and they belong to the Church of England. I think it would be a mistake to expose our Bishop to the risk of being ridiculed for being claimed to be the (Arch)Bishop of Canterbury. It would be nice for our Bishops to have names of towns for the titles of their sees, but the usual way is describing the territory rather than a single city. Most of our dioceses are named after whole countries or parts of a vast country like the United States. We have the Diocese of the Resurrection and only one diocese named after a single city, New Orleans. The Old Roman Catholics have titles like Caer-Glow and Selsea, unless they adapt styles like we have in the ACC.
One thing we can do if we find ourselves as priests without congregations because no one could care less – is to study and teach, to work in the arts and crafts with the expression ora et labora in our minds. Fr Jonathan is a Benedictine oblate, and this commitment is precious in our midst. I see that he shares my interest in penetrating the mystery of God as far as our limited human reason and experience will allow.
He is in good company. I love playing with words myself, which takes on a whole perspective with my differing degrees of knowledge of other ancient and modern languages.