22 March 2010

Anglicanorum coetibus

Friends sometimes ask why nothing much seems to be happening. To which the answer is twofold: that these are early days; and that the arrangements on offer are open-ended. Moreover, there are practical matters to be sorted both at the Anglican and the Roman end. My recollection is that it took something like a decade for the admirable parish of St Mary the Virgin, Arlington, to settle and organise its future.

Of course there are reasons why the process does not seem publicly to be not running at a headlong pace; the most obvious of which is that a community will not move at the same speed as an individual. It's not so much that "groups move at the speed of the slowest member" as that there will be many more complexities to settled.

Some people are surprised that Fr X has no intention of "going" while Fr Y just can't wait. Yet Fr X was always the more popish of the two by far. His church has always seemed more Roman than anything in Rome, while Fr Y's church has always seemed much more 'Ordinary C of E'. It is not always understood that the less "extreme" Anglican Catholics often tend to be more upset than "advanced" churchpeople are by the activities of the C of E. The reason for this is that "moderates" really have loved, thought well of, and expected well of the Church of England. So when she does wildly unorthodox and unorthopractic things, "moderates" get very upset and heartbroken. Fr X and his people, on the other hand, because of their "extremism", never have had any time for the Church of England or expected well of it. They have in fact conducted their affairs as if the C of E did not really exist. Seeing it as already gravely flawed by the mere fact of its canonical isolation from the Holy See, they feel, every time it does something even more unacceptable, like having Womenbishops, that well, not much has changed ... what do you expect?

I do not think it is fair to complain about the tardiness of individuals who are part of a group which is discerning its future. After all, the whole point of the Apostolic Constitution was to provide a way for groups; a bridge which would remain permanently in place. I do rather wonder about individuals who now explain that they don't want to be "Ordinariate Catholics" but just "Ordinary Catholics". Fine; well and good; but in that case why are you hanging around? Shouldn't you have departed some time ago - as soon as it became clear, in Bishop Edwin's lapidary phrase, that the game was up? And - at the very latest - that point was reached when the Anglican bench of bishops made rude noises at Walter Kasper and told him to get lost. And I have even heard the old idea that we must just work and pray even harder to bring the entire C of E round so that there can be a corporate reunion of the whole shooting match. My view is that, as Anglicanism, in a definitive and irrevocable way, sets a course of radical divergence from the Catholic Church, this old notion is just daft.

I do have some sympathy, however, for those who are, for personal or relational reasons, rather trapped. This could refer to laity (or even clergy) in irregular marriages. But I would hope that Roman marriage tribunals might be potential friends here. I gather this has proved to be true in America. Such persons should not give up, and they should investigate the possibilities sooner rather than later. It might be helpful if our bishops indicated sources of assistance. More problematic are those clergy whose situation has elements, sexual or other, which make it most improbable that they would be able to exercise a sacerdotal ministry in communion with the Holy See. I understand how they might feel. I myself have been a priest for more than four decades; my whole life soaked in the disciplines, practices, and instincts of priesthood. Before that, for more than a decade my life was structured around a sense of an inner vocation to priesthood. I would find it immensely difficult now to discern a vocation to the lay state.

I believe we must be patient and understanding, and, above all, avoid cheap jibes and facile condemnations.


GOR said...

Excellent post Father, very thoughtful and perceptive! Given the speed of modern life we tend to expect everything to happen immediately and can’t brook delays (a ten-second response to pressing Enter on the keyboard is deemed interminable…).

As you correctly noted, decisions are not black and white. While some might say, in modern sporting terms: “Just do it!” - it is not as easy as all that. Everyone’s situation is different. Some have more issues to resolve than others – issues of marriage, family, livelihood etc. – which will not be resolved easily or quickly.

But the door has been opened and with patience, goodwill and especially prayer – by all of us – the ultimate goal will be reached.

Steve said...

No, it is not the case that the C of E bishops "made rude noises at Cardinal Kaspar and told him to get lost". They provided a reasoned refutation of his position (which is, incidentally, still available on the internet).

But of course in Rome you can't do that. Vox papae, vox Dei.

Fr. John Guy Winfrey said...

Bravo Father. Well said and quite balanced. It will be a difficult road for many who have deep sympathies for the AC. And I entirely concur that the old notion of Anglicanism is truly quite "daft".

motuproprio said...

I am inexorably reminded of this passage by a 19th century writer whom I am sure Fr Hunwicke knows well.

"I have said, we must not indulge our imagination in the view we take of the National Establishment. If, indeed, we dress it up in an ideal form, as if it were something real, with an independent and a continuous existence, and a proper history, as if it were in deed and not only in name a Church, then indeed we may feel interest in it, and reverence towards it, and affection for it, as men have fallen in love with pictures, or knights in romance do battle for high dames whom they have never seen. Thus it is that students of the Fathers, antiquaries, and poets, begin by assuming that the body to which they belong is that of which they read in times past, and then proceed to decorate it with that majesty and beauty of which history tells, or which their genius creates. Nor is it by an easy process or a light effort that their minds are disabused of this error. It is an error for many reasons too dear to them to be readily relinquished. But at length, either the force of circumstances or some unexpected accident dissipates it; and, as in fairy tales, the magic castle vanishes when the spell is broken, and nothing is seen but the wild heath, the barren rock, and the forlorn sheep-walk, so is it with us as regards the Church of England, when we look in amazement on that we thought so unearthly, and find so commonplace or worthless. Then we perceive, that aforetime we have not been guided by reason, but biassed by education and swayed by affection. We see in the English Church, I will not merely say no descent from the first ages, and no relationship to the Church in other lands, but we see no body politic of any kind; we see nothing more or less than an Establishment, a department of Government, or a function or operation of the State,—without a substance,—a mere collection of officials, depending on and living in the supreme civil power. Its unity and personality are gone, and with them its power of exciting feelings of any kind. It is easier to love or hate an abstraction, than so commonplace a framework or mechanism. We regard it neither with anger, nor with aversion, nor with contempt, any more than with respect or interest. It is but one aspect of the State, or mode of civil governance; it is responsible for nothing; it can appropriate neither praise nor blame; but, whatever feeling it raises is to be referred on, by the nature of the case, to the Supreme Power whom it represents, and whose will is its breath. And hence it has no real identity of existence in distinct periods, unless the present Legislature or the present Court can affect to be the offspring and disciple of its predecessor. Nor can it in consequence be said to have any antecedents, or any future; or to live, except in the passing moment. As a thing without a soul, it does not contemplate itself, define its intrinsic constitution, or ascertain its position. It has no traditions; it cannot be said to think; it does not know what it holds, and what it does not; it is not even conscious of its own existence. It has no love for its members, or what are sometimes called its children, nor any instinct whatever, unless attachment to its master, or love of its place, may be so called. Its fruits, as far as they are good, are to be made much of, as long as they last, for they are transient, and without succession; its former champions of orthodoxy are no earnest of orthodoxy now; they died, and there was no reason why they should be reproduced. Bishop is not like bishop, more than king is like king, or ministry like ministry; its Prayer-Book is an Act of Parliament of two centuries ago, and its cathedrals and its chapter-houses are the spoils of Catholicism."

Edwin said...

Great blog, Farv - and your next one, also. As for "The game's up" so it is with regard to the dear old C of E, alas; but for Catholic minded Anglicans, since Ang: Coet: came over the hill, the game's afoot! Power to your elbow. +E

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