28 November 2017
Eric Kemp and the purpose of the Ordinariate in a Bergoglian Church
Today is the Year's Mind of the Right Reverend the Father in God Eric Waldram Kemp, sometime Lord Bishop of Chichester.
Memories crowd in: of the day when, by an act of quasi-papal primacy (immediate and ordinary and episcopal, and so dead in line with Vatican I), George Carey sent a Guildford suffragan clutching a Primatial Commission in his hot little hands to "ordain" women for the Diocese of Chichester. On that potentially depressing day Eric came to us at Lancing - he felt so at home singing Pontifical High Mass in Lancing Chapel - and then spent the rest of the day having lunch with us; his face growing redder and redder as the gin ... and the wine ... flowed, and we drowned our sorrows in the traditional Anglo-Catholic way. Memories also of the sermons he preached when Lancing had a head master, formerly head of Rugby, who did not share our foundational Catholicism. Somehow, Eric always seemed to be able to work into his homilies a scathing reference to "the ideas sometimes associated with the name of Thomas Arnold head master of Rugby". It was a commonplace that the Chichester diocese, during his pontificate, was the Indian Summer of the C of E; it was, certainly, of the 'Catholic Movement'. After he retired, the secret police went round the diocese gathering evidence of liturgical 'illegalities', and the rumour was that a man was going to be put in with a clear remit to "bring it back into the Church of England". It is certainly true that under his successor, women began to receive the diocesan license to officiate; and the Roman Rite, for the first time since 1975, began to be persecuted.
Eric had exactly what Manning found so reprehensible in Newman; the old Anglican Oxford Literary Patristic tone. It was a style of theological Anglican Catholicism which read and remembered; which argued and did Divinity in accordance with the rules of evidence and of logic; which was deeply marked by the continuities of the Anglican Catholic tradition and its rootedness in parish church as well as in Cathedral and in library; what Archbishop Michael Ramsey had beautifully called Divinity done within the sound of Church bells. But ...
Sadly, Eric was a man out of his age. His gentle gifts of erudition and rational discourse were naked before the mechanised onslaught of the panzer divisions of Liberalism and Feminism ... he was himself no Guderian; not even a Montgomery. It was under Eric's leadership of the 'Catholic Movement' that, uneasily, we gradually became aware that we were winning every battle, triumphing hands-down in every argument, but unmistakably losing the war. It took some time to realise it, but eventually we identified the great strengths our enemies possessed and which we totally lacked. Their idea of 'discussion' or 'dialogue' meant them shouting abuse until their foes fell silent. They demanded that we 'hear their experience' purely as a preliminary to getting out their cudgels. They would never engage in rational argument because, happy pantomaths, they already knew every answer. They had made bullying into a fine art. To disagree with them was but to manifest one's own psychological problems - one's phobias and hang-ups and prejudices. What defences had we, or the methods by which Divinity had hitherto been done on the banks of the Isis or even of the Cam, against this ruthless and Stalinist totalitarianism and its Dahlek-like readiness to ex-ter-min-ate?
Only God knows if the Ordinariate project will work out in the long term. I pray that it will. If it does, this will be the best possible memorial to Eric: to the old Oxford (and Cambridge and Durham) Patristic Tone - the Divinity of Pusey and Keble and Liddon and Neale and Dix and Kirk and Jalland and Lewis and Sayers and Kemp and Carpenter and Farrer and Mascall and Couratin and Ratcliff and Willis and Chadwick and Cross and Kilpatrick - as a living and thriving reality, vigorous in its defence of orthodoxy, fruit of a broad and deep and generous culture, but now, happily, transplanted into a broader Christendom.
And the Anglican Catholic Patrimony has been transplanted, surely, for the good of all Catholic Christians. Papa Ratzinger replanted us within Christ's Catholic Church Militant here in Earth so that we can share and proclaim our experience. So that we can tell our fellow Catholics: "If you go down that path, we can explain to you here and now exactly where you will end up. We can show you the map. We have already visited the future ... the future to which Bergoglianism beckons the Catholic Church ... and, believe us, it does not work."