21 March 2008

More on Ebbsfleet

Perhaps I owe readers who have better thing to do than keeping an eye on the eccentricities of Anglicanism a word of explanation about the 'Ebbsfleet Apostolic District'. It is one the groupings in England of those who have been deserted by the movement of the official organs of the Church of England away from Catholic Faith and Order. It consists of some hundred parishes in the South Western segment of England ... which makes it a fair size bigger than some American and Irish dioceses and possibly than the entire Scottish Episcopal Church. It takes its name from the Ebbsfleet which was the landing place of S Augustine before he got to Canterbury and founded his See there. So it points to the time before there was such a thing as the Church of England, but when a great Roman Pontiff had sent a diffident group of Roman monsignori to bring the Faith to a provincia (Brittania) which had lost it. We accordingly venerate pope S Gregory the Great as our Patron Saint. The implications of all this will not be lost upon the thoughtful.

I appreciate the puzzlement Roman Catholics must feel that Christians who are so very orthodox (and believe me, we are) are in a canonically anomalous situation as far as the ancient Churches of East and West are concerned. But I would ask them to do two things: to give us the benefit of the doubt; and to read Aidan Nichols' book The Panther and the Hind. And possibly also to recollect that there are are parts of the Roman Catholic Church where the teaching emerging from local archbishops is a great deal less orthodox than that coming from the present occupant of the See of Canterbury. I seem to recall that not so very long ago one American RC archbishop was such a problem that Rome had to send a coadjutor to administer those parts of archdiocesan life that particularly related to orthodoy and orthopraxy; His Grace wasn't safe enough to do it.

What particularly upsets us sometimes is that there seem to be but two sorts of RCs. There are those whose heresies startle us and, imperceptive fools that they are, think they can endear themselves to us by whispering in our ears how the present Pope is wrong about nearly everything, but, not to worry, he will soon be followed by another one who will be as gloriously heretical as anybody could wish. The other sort of RC is the one who shares the faith which we hold, but because he has (rightly) come to see the problems of 'ecumenism' as it is often understood, seems to need to treat us with contempt instead of as brothers-in-arms.

May I add a personal and emotional point? We have been in existence for less than two decades, but already we have a history and an institutional life which is immensely dear to us. Newman, in his sermon on the Second Spring, foretold that the glories of the old English Church had passed away, but that Pio Nono's new sees would soon be 'names as musical to the ear, as stirring to the heart, as the glories we have lost, and saints shall rise out of them ...'. We feel a bit like that. There have been three bishops of Ebbsfleet, all of them men to suggest the words of the Latin anthem Ecce Sacerdos Magnus. I had the privilege of close friendship with the first; he and his successor died worn out by hard work for the Catholic Faith. Our present Pontiff is also a man who has not spared himself in witnessing to Catholic Truth; as far as he is concerned, the liturgical formula that springs to mind is a Byzantine one, eis polla ete, despota.


William Tighe said...

"What particularly upsets us sometimes is that there seem to be but two sorts of RCs."

Oh dear, I abhor the first sort, and yet do not wish to be numbered amongst the second.

Nor, I would think, does Dr. Steenson.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

'sometimes ...seem...' are the operative words. I would never accuse my dear friend Bill Tighe - orthodox, learned, generous, kindly - of being in either category; nor Fr Aidan Nichols, who has been such a friend and help to us. And of course there are others, but it would be invidious to go on and attempt an inclusive list. I suspect that those on it would recognise the uncomfortable dichotomy I crudely sketched. I thank them all for the friendships of years.

Scelata said...

And may I add the voice of a nobody in the loft, (a "NIB, as opposed to a PIP,) saying that I suspect that many of us RCs fit into neither category?

All SHALL be one...

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)