Our Autumn Gathering had its funny side. Two of the bishops whose names are attached to the Society of St 'Inge and Bracket had been booked to present the proceedings of the Northern Synod which, apparently, so warmly backed this initiative of Johnny Hind and Chums. But they both subsequently discovered that their diaries contained entries which, after all, precluded their attendance. Those inclined to give some support to the Society and who were physically present seemed strangely muted in their praise of it. It appeared to be a truth universally acknowledged that nobody knew what the rationale of the Society was, or what it is for. One much loved priest commended the bishops involved for being prepared - after all these years of sneering at action groups - to do something; he suggested that it might be called the Society of Awakened Episcopal Ostriches. Another felt that it was important to give the Society a fair wind, although if, as he clearly suspected, the sponsoring bishops were not prepared to act illegally, it would be worse than useless (his hilarious peroration included a stirring rallying cry to Stink). With friends like these, how can the Society need enemies?
It was suggested that the Northern Clergy are different in type from us Southerners; since we were also told that a thousand of them had signed up blindly to the Society without knowing what it would turn out to be, I felt that this was a rather ambiguous piece of praise for those sturdy, sensible, no-nonsense lemmings (Lemmus Borealis?) up beyond the Humber. All the Nigerian Widows who so regularly email us could have a field day among the clergy of the Northern Province. We were told that quite probably the legislation for women bishops would fail next time to secure its necessary Synodical majorities ... so that it would keep coming back at regular intervals to prevent us from getting slack and bored.
But the moment of supreme bathos came with the suggestion that all was actually rather well; the Calvinist Conservative Evangelicals would save every last bit of our bacon by deploying their financial clout. That the Catholic Revival, the Movement of Pusey and Newman and Keble, the spiritual descendants of the heroic Non-jurors and of the martyred Laud, should come to this ...
Don't get me wrong. There were plenty of speakers, particularly among the young, who realised that we have clutched at so many straws and for so long that there is no thatch left on the roof to keep the rain out. There was real enthusiasm for Dr Ratzinger's New Deal. I just thought you might like to hear ... yes, the funny bits.
Oh, and yes, Bishop Edwin did tell us that the game was up.
18 October 2010
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The funniest I heard (on Saturday) was the layman who objected to the ordinariate on the grounds that it was not permitted by something called the "thirty-nine articles". Whatever they are.
I should have thought that most of what Anglo-Catholics stand for is not permitted by the Articless, at least "the plain and Full meaning thereof... in the literal and grammatical sense".
It reminds me of the torments and mental gymnastics suffered by advanced clergymen approaching ordination and the concomitant need to swear to them that old novels portrayed. (As one former Anglican, now a Catholic Bishop in Australia, told me, the day he swore to the Articles was the only day he's ever perjured himself.)
For after all, those 40 stripes less one are "doctrines so horrible no one would want to believe them", if I recall what is said of them in "The Towers of Trebizond" - though I was taught by an Aff-Cath. clergyman who ostentatiously claimed he agreed with them (while pairing such Protestantism with both ritualism and an, ahem, alternative lifestyle, fortunately not mentioned by name in said Articles).
It is precisely the plain, literal, and grammatical sense of the Articles that Church Papists can snuggle under. For example: when the Articles say that the Bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in this realm of England, one can say that he has indeed no authority as far as the Realm, the political secular institution, is concerned, but, ecclesiastically ...
It is once you take account of what something was intended to mean in its original historical context that problems arise. So the Royal Martyr, by his Preface to the Articles, let us off the hook.
It is precisely the plain, literal, and grammatical sense of the Articles that Church Papists can snuggle under.
It seems to me one would have to employ some tortuous logical contortions to be able to put a Catholic slant on Article 19, 22, 25, 28 and 31. From plain reading the meaning seems pretty clear.
Such 'tortuous'activity goes back well before Blessed John Henry Newman, to Roman Catholic writers of that delightfully eirenic decade, the 1630s.
I believe there was a Franciscan ecumenist, something de Santa Clara, who wrote the Tract 90 of the Caroline age, shewing how to read the Articles in a Catholic manner.
I honestly prefer the joke that Anglican cassocks have 39 buttons, one for each Article, and you only do up the ones you agree with!
But do Anglican clergypersons have to swear to the Articles anymore anyway? I thought Free Thought now reigns; or, rather, new Articles about certain modern dogmas are enforced instead...
Franciscus de Santa Clars alias Christopher Davenport, brother of the Puritan divine John Davenport, the first minister of New Haven colony in 1640. His work *Deus ... Natira ... Gratia* of 1634 is a long detailed attempt to do what Newman later attempted with more brevity in Tract 90, although Davenport did admit that there were some few things in the Articles that were incompatible with Trent.
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