The First and Last Anglican church in the land is at St Just. Happy memories: it was on the notice board of that ('Ebbsfleet') church that I first saw the news of the election of papa Ratzinger. Less happy memories are presented by churches which were once great Catholic shrines, back in the days when the Truro diocese had the reputation of being the most Catholic in the Church of England. Bishop Graham Leonard, the great praecursor of the Ordinariate, whose portrait hangs proudly in our Ordinary's study, epitomised that tradition. Ecce sacerdos valde magnus. But the last two or three bishops of Truro, obedient servants of the Zeitgeist, put paid to it all. So many Altars now with women; so many Tabernacles with cobwebs.
Sometimes impertinent people hijack our Patrimonial fathers and apply some condescending argument to the effect that the 'papalism' of those great figures was so conditioned by the circumstances of the time that it doesn't really 'count'. So the heroic Fr Bernard Walke of St Hilary, who had to watch his church being wrecked by a protestant mob, had the heroism of his witness neutered decades later by the disdain of the smoothly unpleasant Donald Allchin. But Walke's words are just as powerful and as relevant now as when he wrote them in 1935: '[I] was convinced that the Catholic movement in the Church of England, which began in the discovery of the Church as a divine institution, could have no other end but a corporate union with the Apostolic See of Rome. Outside that unity there could be no assurance of the preservation of the faith and morals of the Christian revelation'. This is indeed the conviction which has brought us into the Ordinariate.
Notice there the words and morals. Fr Walke did indeed begin his incumbency by immediately replacing Prayer Book Mattins with the Tridentine Rite; but he was not some silly 'smells and bells' but unprincipled high churchman. Not long before he wrote, the Lambeth Conference had begun, albeit tentatively, the long but unambiguous process of uncoupling Anglicanism from the common ancient tradition of historic Christendom with regard to sexual morality, by admitting the possibility of artificial contraception. Only, of course, in the rarest and most exceptional cases. Where would the liberal agenda be if wedges did not have such very thin ends?
I am sure Walke had this in mind, and how right his prognosis has proved to be. It is instructive to compare his words with those of Bishop Gore, in a pamphlet which can be found on PROJECT CANTERBURY. Gore, a 'non-papal catholic', was a good enough scholar to know that what had happened at Lambeth was a disaster, both ethical and ecclesiological, of major proportions. But, blind to the significance in the divine dispensation of the Roman Primacy, his paper, for all its erudition, quite simply flounders.
We must pray that the divinely instituted Roman Primacy may soon be again as great and unambiguous a bulwark against the World, the Flesh, and the Devil as it was in the days of Pope Pius XI ... and of Fr Bernard Walke and Bishop Gore. What is a decade of hiatus sub specie aeternitatis?