17 August 2019
Back in the happy days when the Church of England still existed in more than name, she was famed for the intellectual quality of her clergy. Nowadays her degenerate successor organisation trains its ministers largely at non-residential regional Ministerial Training Courses, run jointly with the Methodists ... I remember a day when Bishop John Richards and I had met one of these gentry and 'JR' had some things to say about his total ignorance of Scripture and, indeed, of anything.
In the old days, much seminary training went on in theological colleges. Those Theological Colleges were largely one of the fruits of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England (Chichester was founded by Charles Marriott). In the spirit of the Counter-Reformation Tridentine reforms, first adumbrated, as Eamon Duffy pointed out, by Reginal Cardinal Pole, they were very often founded in cathedral closes ... Chichester or Wells or Salisbury or Lincoln ... not simply so that the seminarians could benefit from the influence and teaching of erudite canons residentiary, but so that they might be part of the episcopal familia. They remind me of Archbishop Michael Ramsay's admirable definition of classical Anglican Theology as Divinity done within the sound of church bells. Their closure (do chickens come before eggs?) betokened the collapse of that classical Anglicanism which it is the duty of the Ordinariates to recover and to repatriate into Catholic Unity.
It would be wonderful if our Catholic Bishops, or some of them, were to rebegin clerical formation within their own households. (Possibly Bishop Mark Davies is heading in this direction with his Mater Sacerdotum House.) How such a reform would rejoice the priestly hearts of Cardinal Reginald Pole and S Charles Borromeo! This could help in the long labour of rebuilding a clerical culture in accordance with the mind and legislation of the Church. I am thinking here not least of Veterum Sapientia (S John XXIII) and of the provisions of canon 249.