19 August 2014

Priestly Formation

A good week down in Sussex last week; on Thursday celebrating with Senior Granddaughter her spiffingly good A-level results, which confirmed the place she has at Oxford for October; and on Friday meeting with Junior Grandson in the Palace Gardens in Chichester. He is a splendid little fellow with an entrancing smile ... except when his brows contracted because of suspicions that his Grandpapa had designs upon his miniature Bugatti. He is quite fluent at linguistic exercises such as the construction of sentences syntactically linking (dittography?) the terms Grandpapa and naughty. Naturally, I hope that he might turn out to be a classicist, or at least a pedant.

Nostalgia struck as I glanced over the Palace wall to the buildings of the former Theological College, which flourished back in the days ... such happy days ... when the Church of England still existed and was famed for the intellectual quality of her clergy (nowadays her degenerate successor organisation trains its ministers largely at non-residential regional Ministerial Training Courses, run jointly with the Methodists ... I remember a day when Bishop John Richards and I had met one of these gentry and 'JR' had some things to say about his total ignorance of Scripture and, indeed, of anything).

Those Theological Colleges were largely one of the fruits of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England (Chichester was founded by Charles Marriott). In the spirit of the Counter-Reformation Tridentine reforms, they were very often founded in cathedral closes ... Chichester or Wells or Salisbury or Lincoln ... not simply so that the seminarians could benefit from the influence and teaching of erudite canons residentiary, but so that they might be part of the episcopal familia. They remind me of Archbishop Michael Ramsay's admirable definition of classical Anglican Theology as Divinity done within the sound of church bells. Their closure (do chickens come before eggs?) betokened the collapse of that classical Anglicanism which it is the duty of the Ordinariates to recover and to repatriate into Catholic Unity.

It would be wonderful if our Catholic Bishops, or some of them, were to rebegin clerical formation within their own households. How such a reform would rejoice the priestly hearts of Cardinal Reginald Pole and S Charles Borromeo! It could profitably be combined with the medieval custom whereby religious orders maintained houses of study in Oxford. This could help in the long labour of rebuilding a clerical culture in accordance with the mind and legislation of the Church. I am thinking here not least of Veterum Sapientia (S John XXIII) and of the provisions of canon 249 ... provisions which one of our archbishops recently implied have been comprehensively ignored.


Bernard Brandt said...

Of course, you could also cite Optatam Totius, as to requiring such trifles as Latin and the languages of Scripture and Tradition, for those who seek only the warrant of Vatican II.

Savonarola said...

What a pity in your second paragraph you have to bitch about the CofE in that typical Anglo-Catholic way. It must have nourished the greater part of your life: is it really necessary to be so nasty about it now that you have "seen the light"?

Tristan said...


Whilst I would never dream of speaking for our host, I've found that the mournful expression 'the Church of today is not the one I was ordained into' is a rather common amongst male clergy I know in their 60s-70s. I think it's less 'bitching' (what would that be in Latin?) and more regret.


Little Black Sambo said...

Savonarola, a strange comment. Fr H. is fairly unusual in his open loyalty to and affection for the tradition in which he was brought up. People joining the Ordinariate were assured that they were throwing nothing away, whereas in truth many of them had already thrown a lot away long before, and are now perhaps recovering what they never valued.