Friday, August 07, 2009

Trouble with Anglicans

Fr Dwight who I knew of as Vicar in Bexhill, when I was in nearby St Leonards on Sea, writes about an encounter with the saintly Abbot Leo of Quarr, Fr Dwight had decided he wanted to be a Catholic but in the C of E:

"You know, I think it's marvelous that you want to be Catholic, but we Catholics define what being a Catholic is rather differently than you do."
"Yes?" I replied.
"Well, we think that at the heart of being Catholic is obedience to the teaching of the Holy Father."
"But I am obedient to the teachings of the Holy Father!" I protested. "In fact, it seems that I am more of a faithful Catholic than most Catholics I know! I follow the Pope's teaching in my marriage, I follow the teachings of the Catholic church in my celebration of the liturgy, in my prayer life and in my doctrinal and moral beliefs. I am obedient to the teachings of the Pope."
Abbot Leo smiled, "Yes, but what about the teaching of the Pope that to really obey the teachings of the Pope you have to be in full communion with him?"
Well, if Peter was the Rock, then I was between a Rock and a hard place.
I have a great affection for so many Anglicans, but I have both a sympathy but also a strong frustration with those who profess "a degree communion" with the Catholic Church, doing Catholic things, even praying for the Pope and yet are content with not being recognised by him, the Vicar of Christ, as being in communion with him.

There is a story of Archbishop Amigo of Southwark meeting an Anglican clergyman in the 1930s who said, "I pray for you everyday in the Canon of the Mass, in fact I regard as my lawful and rightful bishop". The Archbishop replied, "Lawful and rightful bishop, eh? In that case I suspend you!"


Elizabeth said...

Why are these Anglicans not prepared to be Catholics? What is stopping them? If as they say they are more Catholic than Catholics what is the problem?. Is it money, being embarrassed at being Catholic (what would there friends and family think), celibacy or if the truth be known are they just not prepared to sacrifice enough for their love of Jesus.

motuproprio said...

Damian Thompson has made the point that the appalling standards of liturgy found in many Catholic parishes has been a distinct obstacle to many Anglo-catholics. The renewal of the liturgy in a Benedictine mode would be a profoundly ecumenical project, removing an obstacle to conversion.

Hilary said...

I liked that!

Volpius Leonius said...

Well us telling them they are in a "imperfect" communion did not exactly help clarify things did it Father?

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

As a cradle Catholic, I can only try and imagine what holds Anglo-Catholics back from becoming Catholics. Motuproprio has highlighted what must be an important barrier -- for all the C of E's doctrinal incoherence and muddle, at least it has dignified liturgies set against a backdrop of decent architecture. With rare exceptions (e.g. Brighton!), the Catholic Church in England offers liturgical mediocrity set against a backdrop of breeze-blocks. Hardly enticing, is it?

Anglicans know full well that doctrinal muddle has also infected Catholicism: how many disaffected Anglicans have approached their local Catholic bishops only to find men who privately favour women's ordination, have little time for Rome and who are rather envious of the theological pluralism in the C of E?

Also, there is the whole business of being English. Many Anglicans continue to endure the unendurable because they see Anglicanism as integral to their Englishness. They see the Catholic Church in England largely as a chaplaincy for the Irish and other minorities. For centuries, not being Catholic has been the litmus test for loyalty to the Crown.

I have great admiration for Anglicans who take the plunge. They leave a huge amount behind and face an uncertain future in their new spiritual home.

BJR said...

There is also an interesting flow of clergy and laity from the RCC to Anglicanism which tends to get little coverage.

As an example the present Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin is a former RC priest. Many Catholics no longer see denominational differences as particularly important. A few years ago a former Superior at Farm Street wrote about a practice he had noted amongst his congregation whereby many when in the country attended Anglican services and Farm Street when in town.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I know nothing of the Dean of Dublin but those who apostacise from the Church, founded on the Rock of Peter, to an ecclesial body seperated from it, generally do so because they are incapable of following the moral teaching of the Gospel.

Is the Dean of Dublin incapable of living a celibate life, or is there another reason? I suspect it is not theological one.

I do know of a Catholic priest who lost his faith and became a successful Anglican clergyman, and another who is living with a succession of boyfriends.

Matthaeus said...

Sadly, there are, and probably always will be, those who, for want of a better expression, try to 'have their cake and eat it'. They are very happy to adopt the Liturgy and Sacraments of the Church (which, of course, are the 'nice' aspects - gifts of the Church which benefit the soul), but don't want to accept authority, especially when that authority tells them something they don't like.

This is the basis not only of the problems that 'High' Anglicans experience with regard to Catholicism, but is also precicely the cause of the present difficulties with the SSPX, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and other groups who actually posess valid orders and sacraments, but will not accept full communion with Rome.

I concur with the comments of Elizabeth and Francis on this post - I have profound respect for converts, especially those who were clergy in their own denominations and so effectively give up a home and career in the process and have to really 'start again from scratch'. But then, I always admire heroism in the cause of the Faith.

In the meantime I continue to pray for Unity - Ut unum sint, Domine.


BJR said...

Fr. Ray,

There are also RC priests who have boyfriends so I don't think that is necessarily the reason.

In terms of laity there have been a number of studies, off the top of my head: e.g. Michael Horsby-Smith that seem to indicate that significant numbers of the laity no longer take the 'party line' on some matters.

In my own direct experience a neighbour started life as RC but now sings in the local Anglican church choir and a friend of Irish background went to her local CofE Midnight Mass and was rather taken by it and now sees that as her church.

I don't think you can ignore that there is a flow out of the RCC just as there is a flow in.

shadowlands said...

"Damian Thompson has made the point that the appalling standards of liturgy found in many Catholic parishes has been a distinct obstacle to many Anglo-catholics.The renewal of the liturgy in a Benedictine mode would be a profoundly ecumenical project, removing an obstacle to conversion."

I know from scripture that Jesus Himself felt appalled in Gethsemane when He was shown the state of my sin,and the price He would pay to ransom my sorry soul back,and the bloodied,filthy Cross that He hung on in agony,that I might live today,with hope in my heart of an Eternity with Him.The Father did not offer an easier path with obstacles removed for His own beloved,begotten Son,and Jesus went ahead and suffered and died for me anyway.What Love! What obedience!He hasn't yet asked me to lay down my life for Him,for the Graces I have received freely and undeservedly.Surely a preferred form of rite of worship is worth surrendering in comparison? We may yet be called to greater submissions.The Father will meet with us,in accordance to our obedient surrender towards Him.This is reality! The people Damien refers to,if they convert in spite of their preferences could lead by example,(Our Lady will gently teach them how to do this)and encourage others to appreciate liturgical standards more appropriately.They don't know what they are missing! It seems a few Catholics are missing out too!

servingblogger said...

I posted this for Father Dwight after looking at his site.

Dear Father Dwight: I have come across your site and blog and have read it with interest.

From my viewing, which I admit hasn't been forensic, but what jumps out at me as consistent themes that you write about are the issue of Anglo-Catholics and their stance in respect of the Roman Catholic Church, and the issue about sexuality, particularly homosexuality (which I note you on a number of occasions denigrate with your own created word 'homosex'.

As to the former, I am delighted for you that you have found joy and peace in your personal pilgrimage and have found somewhere where you feel you should be. Your pilgrimage will have taken time, faith, patience. I just don't understand why you can't exhibit some generosity of spirit to those who are still on their journey. They may not get where you have got. But, do try and give them some generous benefit of the doubt, recoginising that as Christians they are good willed people who are trying as best they can to follow the promptings of the Spirit for them, and even if they do not arrive where you think they should arrive, and struggle along the way, please try and find some Christian generosity of spirit and patience and kindness in your comments and attitudes to them.

As to issues of sexuality, I detect a nasty tone in your writings. As with the previous issue, perhaps you could recognise that people in their sexuality are on a journey, and it is their journey and their life and their relationships. You should not presume to make harsh judgements on them. Leave whatever judgement that needs to be made to the Lord. I sense also that this is an issue that you and others really need to get over. In a world where so much more needs the attention of good Christians and Catholics like you, why not spend your energies on those issues. I worry also about that underlying contempt, aggressiveness, and vitriol that I detect in some of your writing. It smacks of hatred. That is not worthy of a good Catholic and Christian.

Just some thoughts from a Catholic, who tries to live his life according to the Gospel and the teaching of the Church, and recognises that others are struggling along with their own pilgrimage. But presuming not to make judgements, condemn or allow myself to hate others

Fr Ray Blake said...

If you know of priests living and celebrating the Sacraments in a state of grave sin, it is your duty to report them to their bishop or the Holy See.

What do you mean by RCC? There is the Church which is Catholic; Catholics can be subdivided into Latin or Roman Rite or various other western or eastern.

Is Michael still writing? I think what he is saying is there are many who were baptised into the Church who no longer believe (or understand) what the Church believes. The "party line", Catholics belief is revealed by God, and one either accepts it or rejects it, Christ came to bring division.

Jack said...

methinks it might be time for a spring clean in England.

This might sound divisive, but I think that the SSPX is probebly the body best qualified to investigate the magic circle and affiliated bodies

Andiclare said...

The trouble with Anglicans is that they're Anglicans.

Richard Duncan said...

The story about Archbishop Amigo reminds me of the response of Blessed Pope Pius IX to the request of some High Anglican clergymen visiting Rome for a Papal Blessing. Pio Nono obliged with the words used in the blessing of incense at Mass. "Ab illo benedicaris in cuius honore cremaberis" or "May you be blessed by Him in whose honour you shall be burned".

Crux Fidelis said...

When the C of E decided to "ordain" women many Anglicans, clergy and and lay, some prominent in public life, came over to the true church. While always happy to accept converts, I have a particular difficulty with these people. Would Mgr Leonard and Miss Widdecombe, to name but two, have remained Anglicans if it weren't for the problem of female clergy? Was this their only reason for converting? Is it a valid one? Why didn't they convert before?

And don't let's kid ourselves about the quality of Anglican worship. They too have their fair share of happy clappy liturgies.

Independent said...

Newman said that when he was an Anglican he loved the people but not the religion, but when he became a Catholic he loved the religion but not the people. Did he imply that sometimes Anglicans remained Anglicans because of Catholics?

There is a lot to be said for Francis's comment. However there are Anglican theologians, saluted by Fr Aidan Nichols OP as those in whom "the orthodox Roman Catholic can recognise with but little effort 'separated doctors ' of the Catholic Church", who differ for what they regard as good reason. The late Dr Mascall for instance, to whom Fr Nichols dedicated his book "The Panther and the Hind" as "magistro catholicae veritatis" could not accept what is commonly taught about the supremacy of the Pope in teaching and government.

People such as that have respect for probably the most Anglican Pope , who appears to understand them, who is a great scholar, but they cannot join him without disobeying their consciences.