25 August 2009

Canon Law

The Anglican Clergy (or, more specifically, the Anglican Catholic Clergy?), as everybody knows ... well, to be specific, as the Anglican Clergy know ... are ... no ... were the best educated, most learned in the world. I correct my tenses, because nowadays priestly formation in the C of E has taken a nose dive. The financial mismanagement ... the stock market misjudgements ... the sale of valuable property at the bottom of the market ... has precipitated a financial crisis in which clergy, and clergy training, can no longer be paid for. Laity may say the the old prayer "God give us priests, give us holy priests", but the bishops pray "God, give me fewer priests, give me cheaper priests". The ordination of the almost entirely untrained, often the retired who have a solid income, and especially of women at a loose end who've mislaid a husband or two along the way (so many women in irregular unions fancied themselves as priests that the rules were changed) and feel like a hobby activity, preferably one which will give them an excuse to interfere in other people's affairs, is now seen as the way ahead as far as staffing is concerned. Taking a young man from University ... especially a good one ... and giving him a thorough residential training and formation ... is the very last thing a Father in God has in mind, as he sits down with his generously configured bureaucracy to work out the next scheme for managing decline (these schemes invariably have incredibly sexy names like "Moving on in Mission and Ministry"; I'm collecting such titles and would be grateful for contributions ... genuine contributions ... remember, this business has gone beyond parody ... R C contributions would also be of interest).

Back in the Sixties, it took me seven years to attain the diaconate. Mods, Greats, Hon School of Theology, GOE, for those who know the old terminology; in other words, Latin and Greek language and literature; Ancient History; Ancient and Modern Philosophy; Biblica; Patristica; Moral Philosophy; Liturgy; Pastoralia. The last three of these years were in a seminary with a traditional daily structure: Mattins, Meditation, Mass, Lectures, Evensong, Social Time, Night Prayers, Greater Silence.

Roman Catholic readers will have noticed a particular lacuna in that lot: Canon Law. Traditionally, the Anglican clergy have not received a training in Canon Law; I know that RC clergy do, and that that is one of the big cultural differences between us. The usual RC practice of selecting bright young men for a fast track to episcopacy on the grounds of a doctorate or two in Canon Law is incomprehensible to Anglicans. Mind you, when I was in training the Anglican Canon Law had just been overhauled in the Primacy of an ex-Public-School headmaster called Geoffrey Fisher, who believed in Discipline and whose motive had been to put in place structures enabling bishops to suppress iniquitous activities like the use of the Roman Rite and the extra-liturgical cultus of the Blessed Sacrament. Such things as Canon Law were best put out of mind.

That is why my query this morning was going to be addressed to R C clerical readers, if there are any, because they know their Canon Law and most Anglicans don't ... but this proemium has overrun its natural span. The substantive query will have to come tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Education and formation are costly and time consuming luxuries. Something Anglo Catholic minded parishioners (AKA neo-congregationalists) are loath to regard a worthwhile investment. All they really want are servile chimps who can grow their congregation and make hospital calls for 100 bucks (or less) a week! And after all I think we need to face the fact that the only present day postulant able to survive present day "seminaries" with an intact Faith are those who already know what they need to know when they enter. In which case, they know that they better stay the heck away from the seminaries. To wit, the two most respected seminaries in the USA, the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio (RCC) and Nashotah House in Wisconsin (Anglican), I personally know of many woofters, heretics and dimwits that have thrived at these two venerable institutions.

Please forgive my jumping the punch of your query, but
Father, while I totally agree that seminary training is best, and thank God for it in times gone by; I must ask the question: Are there still any seminaries even in England where a young man can learn the Faith and emerge a stalwart soldier of Christ? Or have all, as here in the USA, bent the knee to Baal?

Nebuly said...

‘Moving on in Growth’ - Diocese of Exeter;
'Shaping the Future A STRATEGIC TEMPLATE FOR MISSION" - The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham;
"Seeking to be Christ Centred, Character Building, Community Transforming" - diocese of kilmore, elphin and ardagh (sic);
'Going for Growth' - Diocese of Lichfield;
'Serving Suffolk Communities' - Diocese of Ebbs and Ips

ENOUGH! This activity is becoming a temptation against Faith

Fr Frank Nichols said...

Father: thank you for this strong and wise post!
This is just to prove that your blog even gets read in Brisbane, Australia.

I agreed with everything you said apart from the implication that a "good" University is a necessary preparation for seminary. (I could feel Fr Herbery Kelly SSM spinning in his grave at Kelham)

I had the great privilege of spending almost four and a half years in priestly formation with The Society of the Sacred Mission at Kelham (sadly closed down by the Bishops in the early 70's).
There in the prayerful community structure you describe we had the opportunity to learn to think theologically, and the constant opportunity to relate our study to the prayer of the Church and the mission of God in Love to His world.
Like you, it really frightens me to reflect on the priestly formation on offer now in a Diocese such as the one in Brisbane where I have Permission to Officiate.
But having got that off our chests, it does seem to me that our prayer of the Laity might be changed to "God give us priests, give us young men willing to offer their lives to the priestly service, give us holy priests"
Then perhaps we will be moved through this prayer to ensure that no opportunity to present the sheer privilege of the priestly calling to young men is ever ignored.
A holy priest called me to face the reality of my calling. May we so do for the coming generations.

Anonymous said...

"Arise in Christ." Archdiocese of Boston

This after the sale of the venerable chancery and surrounding property to Boston College and its relocation to a new "Pastoral Center" concrete box in the suburbs.

Sue Sims said...

The RC Diocese of Portsmouth:

'Go Out and Bear Fruit'.

This is the title of the 'Pastoral Plan' by which parishes are amalgamated into clumps as an unspoken but obvious preliminary to closing half of them down.

The problem, of course, is that parishioners have been 'going out' for about 40 years now, though the 'fruit' is less obvious.

Independent said...

Why not Cranmer's prayer which acknowledges that God is required to work great marvels to do anything about the clergy? It is in the BCP of 1662.