Saturday, December 05, 2009

Anglicanorum Coetibus: a break with immigrant status?

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a convert priest, I haven’t had time to think this through yet, so I would welcome comments.

The gist of it is that the Holy Father is concerned that Catholicism has never really “taken” in England, that it has always been seen as an immigrant Church: Italian, Irish, latterly Polish or eastern European.

The Papal Visit seems to be about “English” Catholicism, central to it, the beatification of the very English Newman, but also the context, a state visit, carriages up the Mall, Buckingham Palace, the Queen etc.

Anglicanorum Coetibus, which I assumed was really aimed mainly at the “Southern Cone” Anglicans, where bishops, clergy and laity would be reconciled, my friend suggested it was about remaking the English hierarchy, providing it with new “native” hierarchs. One of the problems potential clerical converts have is not so much union with Rome but union with local bishops.

His reading too of A/C, which isn’t mine, is that all convert clergy, including those already received, will be eligible to join the Ordinariate - a possibility of alternative episcopal oversight.



Patricius said...

Sounds like a typically Anglican tendency to view us all as foreigners even when we are as English as they are.

Mark said...

Father: that, too, was my reading. We shall have to wait and see how it all pans out.

nickbris said...

Although Protestants have a so-called "work ethic"
not a lot of work actually got done until thousands of Catholics came over after being driven out Ireland.The work they did like building canals,roads and railways could never be done by the indigenous Protestant population.

To avoid being taken advantage of too much they formed Trade Unions and were in a position to bring the country to a standstill.

East Europeans, nearly all Catholic are now doing the work that nobody else wants and they are so good at it that one would have to be nuts not to employ them.They have saved countless numbers of firms who were in danger of failing because they couldn't get workers.

Ne'erdowells who would rather spend their whole lives on benefits have to blame immigrants for stopping them getting work.

Idling is theft and Catholics are taught from an early age about the Commandments.

Maurice said...

I am a convert clergyman, now a Catholic priest (praise God!). Why would I want to join an ordinariate? I am blissfully happy where I am, thanks - and it's where I'd counsel (for what it's worth) other potential FACs to be. Can't see the Ordinariates even being set-up in UK really. No need for them ...

Jack said...

I'd welcome a 'native' hierachy that doesn't include 2nd/3rd generation Irish immigrants, it might arrest the tendency of irsih Catholics (or those whose parents were immigrants) in England to view converts (from whatever background) as 2nd Class Catholics, an experience that I found quite unsettling.

me said...

Sounds like ethnic cleansing of the Church to me, at first glance and my understanding(albeit limited) of the unifying effect of the Holy Spirit.
I wonder what this new 'hybrid' will look like? I don't feel at home on this earth anymore, there seems to be no continuing city anywhere. Still, that's in keeping with how Our Lord felt when He visited here, homeless when He arrived and homeless when He left. I wonder how England would have taken to Him?

old believer said...

Well perhaps an apology for Regnans in excelsis would be a start.

Pius V's policy resulted in an impossible situation for Catholics in England. The vast majority of course were appalled and were loyal to their Sovereign and quietly ignored the pope.

The decision at the restoration of the hierarchy not to revive English Medieval uses and instead adopt the contemporary Roman fashions gave the impression of the 'Italiam mission to the Irish'. Those fashions of course changed over the next century to reach a nadir for the celebration of Christian liturgy. 'Prayer Book' Anglicans (a dying breed themselves) can only be appalled at what passes for liturgy in most Catholic churches in the UK.

me said...

Jack said

'I'd welcome a 'native' hierachy that doesn't include 2nd/3rd generation Irish immigrants'

We Christians wonder why the world can view us with scorn, we preach a Saviour reconciling man to God, yet we remain unreconciled with each other and publicly promote further exclusion as a way forward!

"Lord, when did we see you"

Forgive Jack, and start saying your Rosary on a daily basis too,Our Lady will knock them rough edges off you and then you can enjoy your own mansion in heaven, and only invite exclusive guests! I've got a list of English Saints somewhere, thoroughbreds I promise.I'd pop in me'self, if I was up there, but with an Irish Mother, I guess that would count me out.

Fr O'F said...

I think one of our problems is that we tend to see ourselves as a chaplaincy to foreign immigrants rather than a missionary Church.

tubbs said...

hmmm, all this talk of immigrants. Re the photo posted here; isn't that dear sweet Lady in the carriage from an immigrant family? ...and Her husband (a Mr. Battenburg or something) Isn't he an immigrant?
And could someone please explain to this poor Yank how the gnostic-infused Genevan theology (of English Protestantism) is in any way genuine to the English psyche?
I would think that to be truly English (or 'British', for that matter) is to be more Catholic.

epsilon said...

Shadowlands - I'm an Irish catholic and I understand totally what Jack is saying and he's quite right.

I've just visited the potentially "new roman" catholic church in Portsmouth today and it gives me so much hope for the future of the earth that catholic is soon going to mean truly catholic!

May God bless us all and help us to go beyond words (which trip us up more often than they clarify) to a profound respect for each other and all of God's creation.

May God bless our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI who is guiding us and artists of all hues to find and express beauty!

me said...

epsilon said

'I'm an Irish catholic and I understand totally what Jack is saying and he's quite right'.

Well you'll need to speak to Jack outside of this new Church to tell him that, because if he gets his way, you wont be allowed in.

Physiocrat said...

One of the baleful effects of the Irish dominance of the English and Scottish Catholic churches is a widespread philistinism. This probably accounts for the lack of care for historic buildings and artefacts and an indifference to the mainstream European musical tradition which informs Catholic worship on the continent.

Of course the faith is not about fine music and architecture, but when these are egregious, it sets up an unnecessary obstacle.

motuproprio said...

The jibe 'Italian mission to the Irish' is still heard; we really need more 'English' bishops like the late Cardinal Hume (Scottish Protestant father and French Catholic mother). The preponderance of Irish heritage bishops in the current hierarchy certainly outweighs the significance of the Irish diaspora in the pews, whose practice in England has declined as precipitously here as across the Irish Sea (vide Liverpool, the most Irish-influenced diocese).

Volpius Leonius said...

I see the traditional English xenophobia is still alive and well.

Simon Platt said...

England was forged in the bosom of the church. There is nothing foreign about catholicism.

Staunch supporter of the monarchy as I am, I am happy to assert that the church is a good deal more English than the House of Windsor.

Ttony said...

Father, if this is on the money, then it means that the Pope thinks the Hierarchy of E&W isn't up to it without his direct involvement. Where does that leave Archbishop Nichols (and ++CMO'C, come to that)?

Michael Petek said...

Nickbris says:

"Idling is theft and Catholics are taught from an early age about the Commandments."

True, but they want to find out more have to go and research for themselves. There's a 19th century responsum from the Holy See that, in exchange for a fair day's work the worker is entitled to the wage due in natural justice (per subsequent teaching a family wage), and if an employer doesn't pay it he sins in commutative justice, whether the worker consents or not.

Refusing to work for any less than a family wage isn't idling, it's refusing to get ripped off.

Jacobi said...

May I comment on this from north of the border?

There are undoubtedly undercurrents of identity tensions in Catholicsm in England. But whatever your roots, you should remember that the Faith never died out and that is what you should focus on. In every generation you had the example of recusant families and you should not forget that indigenous Catholicsm continued widely in the north, in Lancashire, (my wife is from such a family) and in Yorkshire.
We, north of the border, can take comfort in the same way. Although the Reformation in Scotland took root in the cities, with a little help from Elizabeth's troops, indigenous Catholicism continued in the north and islands and we too, I am glad to say as a lowlander, had our lowland recusant families. The effect of Irish immigration was to give new life to the surviving Faith in throughout the land.

The beatification of Newman will help. An English Catholic thinker in the tradition of what we now see as "continuity" to whom we can all look.

tempus putationis said...

Dear Father,
I wonder where your confrere's ideas came from? I would have thought that the Holy Father, of all people, would be in an excellent position to understand that modern England's generally allergic reaction to true Catholicism is a lingering result of the tragic events of the early 16th century (made possible in part by the activities, amongst others, of a certain German priest...).
But if your friend goes back to the Venerable Bede's history, to medieval religious poetry, to the serious-minded Langland, to the life-loving Chaucer, he will find a wholehearted, thoroughly English love of Holy Mother Church which reflected a thousand years of devotion before the catastrophe struck. Let us not forget that we even had an English Pope in the twelfth century!
Medieval Europe was a Christian family, with all the rivalries and petty disputes inherent therein, rather than the sinister consortium of politicians and businessmen greasing their palms which we see today.
And should we not be wary of attributing to the Holy Father any motivation which he has not, himself, articulated?
With heart-felt thanks for your wonderful blog.

epsilon said...

Shadowlands - you misunderstand me (and I'm fairly sure you misunderstand Jack - though obviously I can't speak for him).

I know what Irish catholics can be like! Don't get me wrong - I am very proud of my Irish heritage and my African-Irish children, raised in the UK, know a lot more about their heritage than many 2nd generation Irish in the UK.

I would put a strong bet on it that Jack is not the xenophobic you are painting him to be.

By the way, you don't have to do the stage-Irish bit to prove your connections. In my experience, teaching in UK schools, having been educated in Ireland, I have a much better grasp of the English language/grammar via the Irish Leaving Cert. than English-educated counterparts - even those specialising in teaching English language!

epsilon said...

Ttony - the pope would be very correct to think that!

One of the great injustices rained upon generation after generation of English schoolchildren is the lie that "catholic" means foreign, alien to England.

The other is that they never learn history from the point of view of those they colonised.

Joshua said...

Aren't the Recusants the faithful remnant of merrie England? And aren't those who have joined them in England most welcome, and just as English as any loyal subjects of HM Elizabeth of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Battenburg, I mean Windsor?

As an Australian, with ancestry stemming mainly from Scotland and England, plus one Irishwoman back in the family tree, I would use our local term for such origins - "Anglo-Celtic" - and suggest it is actually a most reconciling word for the roots of most in the British Isles...

me said...


I am glad you are able to see through Jack's words, a message of hope. I do not see this at present.
I will always stick up for my mother who also felt insulted on hearing his opinions. Some of her ancestors were Jewish settlers in Ireland and had to change their surname, just in order to get work, leaving a long lasting sensitivity to certain 'comments' that has been passed down to me.
I hear that you have had a better education than most of your English counterparts, thereby perhaps enabling you to see the positive aspects of Jack's wish to exclude any Irish or their descendants to the second and third generation, as you know how 'Irish Catholics' can be.

I would request that(you and I together) do not continue to speculate over what Jack was trying to articulate. He may return and do that himself.

Oh and as for my stage Irish,I enjoy doing all sorts of accents, having been literally on a stage, in the past(albeit amateur stuff).

Richard said...

A nice theory, but I don't think the numbers justify it.

So far as I can find the statistics, there are about 5,000 Catholic priests in England & Wales and about 350 Anglican parishes associated with Forward in Faith and/or the Flying Bishops.

So even if the Ordinariate is incredibly successful, the ex-Anglican priests would still be fewer than 10% of Catholic priests in England & Wales. That isn't a significant shift in the current ethnic mix.

Pete Estella said...

Dear English Catholics, I don’t know other places in England, but here in London I feel no problem as a Catholic. Just like my first home in Istanbul when I step outside in Ladbroke Grove I meet all nationalities and religions, like Muslim, Jews, Greek. And we care about our religion and they do care about their religion. It is a matter of identity. If they ask us about our religion we say Latin and that is enough. Our neighbour says Orthodox. People know what it may mean. If you ask me about my nation, it would be too confusing to give an answer. My mother spoke Greek but went to school where it was French. My father was from Croatia. Many people went to Italy and the US. I am in London but it is the same a mixture and many many Catholics black, brown, white. Nation-pride is it so important? Of course being Latin I mean Catholic and loving Our Lady is very very important. I also think the queen is a nice lady.

Jack said...


I'm not a xenophone, its just that my experience as a convert is that the Irish Catholics (and to a lesser extent the Poles and Phillipinos) in England tend to form ethnic ghettos within parishes to which no-outside that particlular ethnic group is welcome,(bear in mind that a large number of Catholics in England have a polish/irish/philapino background even if they were born here) a large preportion of parish social events (including Marriages) take place within this group meaning that those of us who converted tend to feel very isolated from the Church family. My hope is that an primaraly English Hierachy would make it socially unacceptable to form such enclaves and thus lead to greater inclusion and acceptence of those who were born in the man-made structure of Henry VIII

Physiocrat said...

My experience of living in Sweden is that national groups tend to form enclaves within the Catholic church if there are enough of them. I suppose it is natural that they will do this. One hopes that the children of immigrants will integrate, but too often it means that they just lapse.

Those immigrants who are too few in number have no choice but to integrate.

The Swedish Catholic church has drawn on local traditions eg music, in a way that the English Catholic church has, so far not. We have failed to make use of the great Anglican heritage which is in many ways represents the very best of English culture. If this changes, it must be a good thing.

epsilon said...

Thank you Jack! Many Irish people like to imagine that the world loves them specially - all stemming from an unnecessary inferiority complex if you ask me. Unfortunately, what results is a very cliquey atmosphere at a lot of catholic churches and it's only the very brash who break through the barriers.

I must say The Latin Mass Society could do with a bit of training from the Anglican Catholics in how to make people feel welcome too!

epsilon said...

You paint a lovely picture Pete Estella, and who knows maybe Elizabeth II will join us before long...

Definitely, the more we join in traditional catholic prayer to Our Lady and also participate in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the churches that are 'seeing the light' the more our national barriers will melt away and we will truly be joyful.

Terry Nelson said...

No offence - but you are all quite eccentric to me - and many in the U.S. - living in a fairie tale land and all - but I know you think we are just as weird. Laughing out loud - with you - not at you.

me said...


Thank you for your reply. My parents have always mixed with different religions and cultures and have many Anglican friends. I wouldn't regard any of these people as brash, but they managed to 'break through the barriers' and enjoy long term friendships with our family. I think it's important not to tar all Irish people with the same brush, it is for me anyway. I believe all men are individual and should be judged as such, not put into groups, it is extremely patronising. The convert friends of my parents certainly enjoy a good knees up, and seem at home in the culture. The council of churches in my parent's area is well supported, and joint ventures often undertaken.

Jack said...


as a current LMS'er and ex sspx'er my experiance is that these groups are excellent at welcoming new people, infact the people at the sspx chapel I went to were so nice that it made it exceptionally hard to leave

Capt. Piers Stern said...

Dear Father Blake and others,

Thank you for opening this topic. Yours is one of the few blogs where a polite discussion can take place of such difficult topics as national identity. What you have referred to in the past as 'more prestigious websites' would possibly not find such a discussion congenial.

Yet identity is important, and it is an issue with which I am familiar as a Catholic in the British Army.

I do not think that harking back to the Middle Ages provides an easy solution when a British Jonny wants to become Catholic. The idea of tempus putationis that the Middle Ages was a happy European family is just wrong. Nation-states had not yet arisen, but identity was a fiercely contested matter. (If you like Chaucer, note the jibe in the General Prologue at the Prioress's non-Parisian accent.)

Terry Nelson, an American, finds the debate about identity eccentric. But modern Americans cannot dismiss our problem so easily any more. My American colleagues don't seem to be happy to be just American. They all seem keen to tell me they are 'Italian American', 'Polish American', 'Irish American', and so forth. Is this craze not equally eccentric? (Having said that, I think one man was thinking along the right lines about being modern, not secular, and English: T.S. Eliot - and he was American.)

The most naive, with respect, is Pete Estella. We cannot simply elevate religious values. We need to connect with, and be rooted in, a wider society. Your Greek neighbours were clear about wanting a cultural home, and fought for it. And what was the situation of the Latins before foreign embassys adopted them? They had a reputation for trickery and money grubbing, hence the fact that Levantine is an insult in modern Italian.

With best wishes,


Pablo the Mexican said...

"....Thank you Jack! Many Irish people like to imagine that the world loves them specially - all stemming from an unnecessary inferiority complex..."

In Mexico the Irish are known and loved as the San Patricios. I have attended the huge Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in Mexico City.

In all the Colleges and Universities in Mexico the story of the Irish is mandatory reading. The Irish have never backed down from a fight even to the death, when it comes to defending Holy Mother Church.The blood of the Irish is co-mingled with the blood of the Mexican Martyrs.

God bless the Irish, their ancestors, and their descendants.


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