27 November 2010

However did he get away with it?

Bishop Andrew Burnham knew from the beginning what he wanted to do; and he did it. The mystery is that the Great and the Good showed no signs of realisung what was going on.

He saw priests and people in his allotted third of England as being, not a fully-fledged Particular Church, but as an ecclesial gathering on the way to that status. He saw it, in fact, as rather like the recusant community in England before Blessed Pius IX restored the hierarchy - divided into their respective Districts. So he called his bailiwick a District. And, alluding to styles such as 'Vicar Apostolic' or 'Apostolic Administrator' in the RC Church, he called it the Ebbsfleet Apostolic District. There was something not a little proleptic about this; in the RCC 'Apostolic' means something like 'pertaining directly to the Apostolic See of Rome'. So Bishop Andrew, while not in full communion with the See of Peter, proclaimed in effect exactly what his intentions were and whwere it was all, in logic, destined to lead. And lest anyone should be in any doubt, he set up structures in the District which were decidedly reminiscent of RC terminology ... there were, for example, episcopal vicars. Nobody could claim that he was thereby 'pretending' to be a diocesan bishop (" I know I'm not a diocesan bishop; when the vestry roof is leaking, nobody gets in touch with me") as they could have done if, for example, he had named 'archdeacons' and 'canons', because he was using titles which had no meaning in Anglican canonical and statutory usage. The whole thing worked very well and, to boot, it all had meaning.

So few people appeared to noticed this meaning. I can only presume that most were too ignorant of the byways of history and of the nuances of words.

I am sure Rowan will do the honourable thing in making the next appointment. But, almost by definition, the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet can only be someone who has decided that he is not heading Burnhamwise in a direction ultra montes. Rome has made its offer; it is there on the table to be taken or left. As various people have observed, this has called some bluffs. Essentially, one either takes it or one leaves it; there is no third alternative. So the next occupant of the See will by the very logic of the situation be a priest who, with whatever degree of good intention, is content to be meshed into a structure, the Church of England, which has set out on a course of definitive divergence from the Ancient Churches, and turned its back irrevocably on its former ecumenical partners.

That is why, when the offer comes to me from Lambeth Palace, I shall not accept the See. Accepting it would seem to me like a form of constructive apostasy - a turning in a direction diametrically opposed to the one we were moving in before.


Joshua said...

ROTFL at that penultimate sentence!

We trust you will, in filial obedience, accept the Pope's selection of you in due course...

Steve said...

It looks like they'll be left to choose between +Cicestr's friends and Reform.

Which of those is the devil, and which is the deep blue sea?