25 July 2015

'High Church' or 'Catholic'? (1): Church of England Games

Bishop Christopher Luxmoore, now departed, was a friend, as well as being the Provost of Lancing, who quite often graced our breakfast table in Common Room during his (very happy) years as our Provost. He appeared gentle and gentlemanly; but beneath the patrician charm there lurked a most agreeable capacity for waspishness. I remember, for example, the morning after a cleric of slender intellect had been nominated Bishop: "B.A. Leeds, John! B.A. LEEDS!!" he snarled. And, another morning, after a cleric who had been 'one of us' had (as Bishop Christopher considered it) made the appointed sacrifices to Moloch in order to acquire a mitre, after giving his order to the Common Room Steward, Luxmoore just looked across and said "Venner has ratted!". Unlike most Tabs, he was not a man who always felt the need for subordinate clauses.

Memorable, also, his equally laconic definition of the difference between 'High Church' and 'Catholic': "Catholics go to Confession". Exactly. Outsiders often failed to appreciate that there was a difference between the two terms. If  ceremonial went on in a church, they called it 'High Church'. They thought 'the High Church will join the Ordinariate'. However, for those of us who were in the know, the term was used quite differently. 'High Church' used to mean 'rather given to ceremonial but without real substance'. Many of its members were in fact, doctrinally, very far indeed from discernibly Catholic or even, dare I say it, in some cases, even Christian, Faith. 'High Church' meant an attachment to those of the externals which would not impede your career.

But 'Catholic', either on its own or with an 'Anglican' or an 'Anglo-' added, implied seriousness; commitment; dogma. You could, indeed, be 'Catholic' without being particularly attached to ceremoniousness, without being 'High Church', at all. Moi, I've never needed highchurchery: my first, 'title', parish was just surplice-and-stole; I've never owned an inch of lace; I rather enjoyed the ritual simplicity of the Church of Ireland. Blessed John Henry Newman, I believe, was not an addict of ritual. A failure to grasp this distinction is what caused all the puzzlement when large numbers of very 'moderate' clergy joined the Ordinariate, while the 'extremists', the 'advanced' men who owned yards of lace, and were repositories of exquisite lore about coloured pompoms on birettas, stayed, almost to a man, in the C of E, where they still produce cheerful magazines with beautiful pictures of exotic liturgy.

Is any such distinction discernible in the Catholic Church? To be continued.

14 comments:

Gertrude said...

I always find Walsingham confusing especially the Anglicans at their worship , and when I saw a gentleman in a Cardinal's Red sitting in the garden of the adjacent 'pub' garden sipping a G&T I was further confused; only to be told he was an Anglican.
So Father, are they High Anglican? Would it be considered "'rather given to ceremonial but without real substance'. Many of its members were in fact, doctrinally, very far indeed from indeed from discernibly Catholic or even, dare I say it, in some cases, even Christian"
Whilst I realise how fervent these good folk are,are they Catholics in name but not sacramentally?

Alan said...

I'm not sure your anecdote about the BA Leeds does Bp Luxmoore any favours, Father. It makes the late prelate look like a snob. Leeds is a perfectly respectable redbrick institution, and its BA was the degree awarded to generations of seminarians from Mirfield.

Zephyrinus said...

" . . . exquisite lore about coloured pompoms on birettas . . ."

Magnificent subject matter, I respectfully suggest, dear Fr, for a future Article on your eminently-readable Blog ?

Peregrinus Toronto said...

On this side of the Atlantic, clergy who come to the Ordinariate, as you have noted Father, are also those who take doctrine seriously whether it relates to the Chair of Peter, the sacraments, Christian anthropology, morals or the right to life.

We have one stellar priest in Canada who comes from a solidly Evangelical background. His reflection upon the role of Peter in the Church, Fr. Gibson recounts, led to the ineluctable conclusion that his baptism demanded that he accept the authority of the Chair of Peter and its occupant as the Vicar of Christ. To the astonishment of many in his evangelical community he was received into full communion, celebrated ordination and serves in our Calgary parish which, as Anglo-Cahtolics would say, offers full Catholic privileges; hearing confessions and celebrating the Ordinariate Mass with full traditional ceremonial.

The gin and lace set, it seems, once they stop trying to square a doctrinal circle, have given up entirely to the zeitgeist or hide in their diminishing liturgical oases simply trying to enjoy the colours and music.

BTW - I don't own any lace either and though they keep trying to put a biretta on my head, I tell my Ordinary and fellow Scandinavian descendent, Msgr Steenson, that I wear my long Norwegian (Laudian) surplice when in choir. He wondered if I had a ruff collar to go with it!

Will P said...

Gertrude: If one takes as one's criterion the definition that "Catholics go to Confession", it has to be said that Confession is quite strongly promoted at the Anglican Shrine. It is not merely "made available" in a passive sense, but actively incorporated into the regular round of services offered to pilgrims. (Of course, no-one is actually forced to participate in it!)

BTW, the cleric in a red cassock – I think I know the person you mean – will have been wearing his correct attire as a Chaplain to Her Majesty.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

You have a point, Alan. CL was a tab; I shall be sying a bit more about tabs in a day or two!!

Thomas said...

I am always puzzled and slightly disturbed by the fashion in some quarters for sharing pictures and videos of elaborate liturgy. Surely liturgy should be something done beautifully and attentively for the glory of God, but (like the more intimate aspects of marriage) it is not meant to become a spectator sport?!

Matthew said...

Another Man in Red anecdote. Some years ago (when I was a PP, and before it moved from the last Saturday in June and for other reasons became numerically diminished) I used to take parties to the Glastonbury Pilgrimage. At one point we passed a most gorgeous apparition in scarlet cassock and lacy cotta surmounted by closed shoulder cape of the same shade. One of my parishioners -- a sound churchwoman but not well up in the ins and outs of ecclesiastical costume -- was convinced he was a visiting Roman cardinal, although she thought that at around 30 he seemed a bit young for such an honour. She was rather deflated when I told her he was just an altar server.

El Codo said...

Father why do you talk all the time about Anglicans as if they were Catholics but in another room? They are not nor are their cergy priests in the sense we know.I thought the Catholic catechism was competely clear on this?

Gregory DiPippo said...

Permit me to suggest, as the mayor of one such quarter, that if all were as it should be in the Church, you would be right, Thomas. But in our current situation, pictures and videos of well-done liturgies (which are not always the same thing as elaborate ones, to be sure) can serve as an inspiration to those who have the means and circumstances to do the liturgy well, and an encouragement to those who do not that better days will come. "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Romulus said...

No, it is not a spectator sport, but those of us with a nuts-and-bolts responsibility for assisting in ceremonies, especially those deprived of direct access to their liturgical patrimony, are grateful for the context they provide.

Figulus said...

Thomas,

I know exactly what you mean. However, I think that these pictures and videos do good for those of us who have not personally participated in fine liturgy so that we can learn how to do it.

Little Black Sambo said...

Something about the Knights of St Maurice /SS Maurice & Lazarus of Jerusalem might be interesting. The priests wear a green pompom.

C&M said...

Hasn't Newman been canonised?