28 November 2018
Eric Kemp and the purpose of an Ordinariate in a Bergoglian Church
Today is the Year's Mind of the Right Reverend the Father in God Eric Waldram Kemp, sometime Lord Bishop of Chichester.
Memories crowd in: of the day when, by an act of quasi-papal primacy (immediate and ordinary and episcopal, and so dead in line with Vatican I), George Carey sent a Guildford suffragan clutching a Primatial Commission in his hot little hands to "ordain" women for the Diocese of Chichester. On that potentially depressing day Eric came to us at Lancing - he felt so at home singing Pontifical High Mass in Lancing Chapel - and then spent the rest of the day having lunch with us; his face growing redder and redder as the gin ... and the wine ... flowed, and we drowned our sorrows in the traditional Anglo-Catholic way. Memories also of the sermons he preached when Lancing had a head master, formerly head of Rugby, who did not share our foundational Catholicism. Somehow, Eric always seemed to be able to work into his homilies a scathing reference to "the ideas sometimes associated with the name of Thomas Arnold head master of Rugby". It was a commonplace that the Chichester diocese, during his pontificate, was the Indian Summer of the C of E; it was, certainly, of the 'Catholic Movement'. After he retired, the secret police went round the diocese gathering evidence of liturgical 'illegalities', and the rumour was that a man was going to be put in with a clear remit to "bring it back into the Church of England". It is certainly true that under his successor, women began to receive the diocesan license to officiate; and the Roman Rite, for the first time since 1975, began to be persecuted.
Eric had exactly what Manning found so reprehensible in Newman; the old Anglican Oxford Literary Patristic tone. It was a style of theological Anglican Catholicism which read and remembered; which argued and did Divinity in accordance with the rules of evidence and of logic; which was deeply marked by the continuities of the Anglican Catholic tradition stretching back even to Laud and the Non-jurors, and its rootedness in parish church as well as in Cathedral and in library; what Archbishop Michael Ramsey had beautifully called Divinity done within the sound of Church bells. But ...
Sadly, there are some Buts.
Eric was a man completely, totally, out of his age. I have a horrid feeling that the current national enquiry into child abuse will be highly critical of his gullibility in that sphere ... he undoubtedly allowed himself (his autobiography makes this embarrassingly clear) to be completely bamboozled by Bishop Peter Ball (a crook who abused the young on an industrial scale). In the area of 'Church Politics', Kemp's gentle gifts of erudition and rational discourse were naked before the mechanised onslaught of the panzer divisions of Liberalism and Feminism ... he was himself no Guderian; not even a Montgomery. It was under Eric's leadership of the 'Catholic Movement' that, uneasily, we gradually became aware that we were winning every battle, triumphing hands-down in every argument, but unmistakably losing the war. It took some time to realise it, but eventually we identified the great strengths our enemies possessed and which Kemp totally lacked. Their idea of 'discussion' or 'dialogue' meant them shouting abuse until their foes fell silent. They demanded that we 'hear their experience' purely as a preliminary to getting out their cudgels. They would never engage in rational argument because, happy pantomaths, they already knew every answer. They had made bullying into a fine art. To disagree with them was but to manifest one's own psychological problems - one's phobias and hang-ups and prejudices. What defences had we, or the methods by which Divinity had hitherto been done on the banks of the Isis or even of the Cam, against this ruthless and Stalinist totalitarianism and its Dahlek-like appetite for extermination?
Above all, Eric's antipathy towards some of the 'papal claims' sadly prevented him from exploring that avenue to a solution of our problems. Unusually but very perceptively, he believed that Vatican II's teaching on the Petrine Ministry was harder to accept than that of Vatican I! God knows what he would have made of disordered Bergoglian ultrapapalism, but we who knew him can guess.
And only God knows if the Ordinariate project will work out in the longer term. I pray that it will. If it does, this will be the best possible memorial to Eric: to the old Oxford (and Cambridge and Durham) Patristic Tone - the Divinity of Pusey and Keble and Liddon and Neale and Halifax and Dix and Kirk and Jalland and Lewis and Sayers and Kemp and Carpenter and Thornton and Farrer and Mascall and Couratin and Ratcliff and Willis and Chadwick and Moreton and Cross and Kilpatrick - as a living and thriving reality, vigorous in its defence of orthodoxy, fruit of a broad and deep and generous culture, but now, happily, transplanted into a wider Christendom.
And the Anglican Catholic Patrimony has been transplanted, surely, for the good of all Catholic Christians during this current crisis. Papa Ratzinger, who had been watching us carefully for years, replanted us within Christ's Catholic Church Militant here in Earth not for silence and for meekness but so that we can share and proclaim our experience. So that we can tell our fellow Catholics: "If you go down that path, we can explain to you here and now exactly where you will end up. We can show you the map. We have already visited the future ... the future to which Bergoglianism beckons the Catholic Church ...
... and, believe us, that future most certainly does not work."