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.