Holy Week 2022

Jesus Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem

In two days is Palm Sunday and then the profoundly mysterious Holy Week containing ceremonies that we celebrate just once a year. I have to look through the ceremonies in case I have become “rusty” since last year. The space I have to do them in is radically reduced since last year. I have the tiny chapel, the landing on the top of the stairs and my library / bedroom.

Like last year, for my New Fire, I use an old cauldron with a bunch of candles glued with molten wax into a jam jar lid. It gives a small fire, but which is possible indoors without producing smoke or danger of burning the house down!

Palm Sunday will be quite straightforward with a simplified blessing of the palms and some chant from the Sarum books. The Passion of St Matthew will be read in English. Maundy Thursday is also straightforward, followed by the stripping of the altar. In the Use of Sarum, we don’t have the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thursday, but the Easter Sepulchre on Good Friday. That will be set up on the chapel window sill. I have the wooden crucifix for the Good Friday adoration of the Cross.

My Paschal Vigil will take a lot of thinking through, from the blessing of the fire and the procession of the single / triple candle from which the Paschal Candle will be lit during the Exsultet. I will read the four Prophecies from a simple metal foldable music desk. The first Mass of Easter will follow the Litanies which are quite different from the Roman one.

The alternative is to go to a Dominican-style community here in the Mayenne, the Fraternité de Saint-Vincent Ferrier. They use the old Dominican rite, similar to Sarum – – – but, they are Roman Catholics – traditionalists – and I am not. There is nothing wrong with attending services, but I fear their questions. Should I go in my cassock or completely anonymously, looking like an eccentric layman? They are good men, but they are what they are, and I am what I am, a worm and no man. Frankly I prefer to avoid the total humiliation and wonder if it would even be good for my soul! They know who I am, and I prefer to avoid the old shadows, bitterness and self-annihilation.

I shall worship in spiritual and sacramental communion with my Archbishop, with Bishop Damien and the ACC in the UK, with my brother priest in the Netherlands. I will serve in the dignity of my priestly vocation, in empathy with the suffering Christ and all who suffer and die with him at this moment. The Church is a sacramental mystery, not a political authority. She subsists even where the links are invisible and difficult to discern. The Mass and the Office build those invisible links of Communion that go far beyond institutions and human ambition. To stay in my little corner will do much more good.

I wish you all a blessed Holy Week from my tiny chapel and my solitude, asking your prayers in this wonder of the liturgy.

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Northern Brittany

I haven’t done very much on this blog for a long time, since I became preoccupied with the situation in the Ukraine. It is still a worry for us all, out of empathy in people driven out of their homes and victims of atrocities and war crimes, and also by the real possibility that this could lead to mankind’s worst nightmare – nuclear Armageddon.

Since my sailing school days more than ten years ago, I have experienced empathy, not only with suffering humans, but also with the natural world – and the wildest coasts around. One such is northern Brittany which rivals the fjords of Norway, the lochs of Scotland, the ragged coast of western Ireland, the inspiration of the Romantics.

I am presently reading Michael Martin’s The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics. I am finding that the theological and philosophical paths I have followed since my university days in the 1980’s concur almost exactly with this American author. I intend to contact him and ask his advice for many things. This book and Sophia in Exile are illuminating. Romanticism is a northern European expression of a much wider inspiration in the human soul in both time and space.

Last weekend, I went for my “Lenten retreat” on the sea in my stout keel boat.

This was my first real sea passage this year – to replace a Dinghy Cruising Association rally that had to be cancelled because of poor weather allowing only two days sailing. Saint-Malo is a lot nearer my home than the Rade de Brest. We will do a short tour of the Rade de Brest towards the end of June. The DCA people are truly great company, and several of us members live in France.

This video is accompanied by a part of Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite conducted by Herbert von Karajan, not that I was in the Norwegian fjords, but on an equally wild and Romantic coast.

I launched Novalis at Plouër sur Rance with little time to spare with the lowering tide. I spent a peaceful but very cold night there in the port. I was prepared, with warm clothing and bedding. I was only able to offer my Office for Passion Sunday morning before leaving Plouër sur Rance. I reached the EDF hydro-electric dam for the last lock until the next rising tide. I sailed along the Dinard coast with the wonderful houses on the cliff tops facing the sea. There were several sandy beaches. I reached the double bay of Lancieux and the islands being careful not to get near any rocks. Sunday was a lovely sunny day to sail to Saint-Cast-le-Guildo with mainsail and genoa. I spend the night docked at Saint-Cast-le-Guildo,

I returned to Saint-Malo on the Monday morning, in a stronger SW wind. I also met a heavy NW swell, and I rigged with my little jib but with full main to avoid the risk of broaching. The weather remained dry, but the wind became increasingly gustier. I sailed into the haven of Dinard to get my sails down before motoring over to Saint-Malo. On the way, I had a nasty broadside wave from a passenger boat that combined with the swell and was about to break. It tested the stability of Novalis because I righted immediately from a near knockdown. My stuff in the cabin went everywhere, and you will see the state of my cabin in a later part of this video. Fortunately, nothing got broken or wet. I motored into the port of Saint-Malo in the whistling wind and agitated water even in port. I managed to find a berth far inside the port.

On Tuesday morning I motored to the dam to get back into the Rance and calmer waters. The wind was calmer than on Monday afternoon, but all over the place, very unstable, so I motored all the way back to Plouër sur Rance. I was right to end the cruise there, because the wind has freshened considerably today, even inland.

I am grateful for this brief contact with the sea, mindful that more clement weather will bless us amateur sailors this season.

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Is Putin a Romantic?

I found it quite difficult to recollect myself for Mass this morning as a thought kept stabbing into my mind – the similarity between Aleksandr Dugin’s ideas, representing Russian and European New-Right traditionalism and Romanticism, at least on the surface. Are the Woke people right in cancelling everything, culture and difference, in their lust to dominate? Is Putin a traditionalist? A Romantic?

As far as I am concerned, there is nothing in common between even someone like Lord Byron who fought against the Turks for the Greeks, and Putin who has shown himself to be a bloody tyrant!

Had he lived today, Byron would have gone to fight for the Ukrainians against the Russian army.

However, there may be some foundational ideas that seem to narrate a myth. I haven’t gone into Dugin’s thought enough to know what he thinks and knows about Romanticism as it developed in Germany, post-revolutionary France and England.

At a superficial level, Dugin would seem to be contrasting a “traditionalist” Russia emerging from the Soviet era against a western world that would be nothing other than coldly scientific and materialist. However, Dugin rightly criticises the development of some western agendas like LGBT, gender issues and Woke. It goes beyond tolerance and shows a face not dissimilar from that of Robespierre. It becomes an ideological war against which traditionalists invoke Catholic or Orthodox tradition and old values like the nation and the family.

Russia was not very traditionalist during the Soviet era, and America is quite religious and sometimes extremely zealous in conservative issues. For Dugin, Russia never had an Enlightenment. Cough! Splutter! Cup of tea sprayed all over the place! What about their nihilism, the Underground Man, the denial of God and adoption of Marx? Two things are missing from modern Russian society. We have neither reason nor will. What does that mean? Dugin rejects the idea that Russians might be irrational or lack intellectual capacity, but offers the idea according to which they give priority to faith and religion over the idea that science and materialism are the nec plus ultra.

I would rather advance the idea that what Dugin extols in the Russian soul actually came from the west. Russian Orthodoxy has had its mystics and saints, but someone like Nicholas Berdyaev gave much more importance to Jakob Böhme as did Novalis in his time, and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin. Even in the USA, there were men of the Transcendentalist school like Emerson and Walt Whitman. Even the USA was (and is) not devoid of humanity. This is not to deny what is good and noble in the Russian soul, but it is not alone.

Traditionalism is not about aggressive politics, but what happened in France at the extreme end of the eighteenth century and Russia in the early 1990’s before the gangsters and oligarchs came on stage to get what they could get out of it. The idealism did not last for long. Dugin can make a caricature of the west, as we cry “Borscht for brains!“. There is both good and evil to be found in Russia, Europe and America.

We all have progress to make towards that ideal that is not a monopoly of Russian Orthodoxy and the Patriarchate of Moscow. That ideal was found in Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and every spiritual expression, even if not explicitly Christian. As an immature youth, I imagined that Germany was Bach, England was Elgar, France was Fauré or the philosophical and literary equivalents of those musicians. The nobility of spirit we yearn for in other people and places has to be found within ourselves. We need to stay put for a while to make that discovery within ourselves of immanent divinity.

The idea that Putin is a traditionalist or a Slavic Romantic is nonsense. He is a gangster. Power has gone to his head. He is killing people, murdering child and widow alike as well as young mothers – and giving the most discredited justifications for it. He is a multi-billionaire and plays God with his wealth and arrogance. I am glad that the western sanctions are hitting him harder than in the balls – in his wallet and bringing down the oligarchs. This is a real Russian Revolution, to free humanity from this monster, not only the person of Putin but what he represents. The same problem exists in the west too in the form of oligarchs, people like Bill Gates and Elon Musk who find themselves the butt of conspirary theories. The latter at least is actually a humanitarian and wants to use some of his wealth to help.

Romanticism essentially had the same message in the wake of the French Revolution and extreme rationalism. The nineteenth century was a miracle in terms of reviving Christian faith and values, just as in Russia with Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy among others. Sometimes great evil comes from sublimity, and this can happen in any of us. He who goes high will suffer a greater fall. I naively believed in Putin until this invasion happened.

Perhaps this clash between Russia and the West, if it doesn’t bring on the nuclear winter and the death of us all, will help to bring out a new humanity and appreciation of truth, beauty, goodness and love.

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Pushkin, not Putin

I try to understand the present crisis in philosophical terms. I am alarmed about Russia and its culture being “cancelled” and demonised. Like most people in the part of the world where I live, I believe that Putin is wrong and is doing wrong by his lack of care for the innocent people who are dying under the bombs and bullets.

I invite you to watch these three videos:

An interview between Freddie Sayers and Marlene Laruelle who has studied Aleksandr Dugin and the “soul of Russia”

Another interview, this time between Gabriel Gatehouse and Aleksandr Dugin about ‘truth’, a new Cold War, and media control.

Bernard-Henri Lévy and Aleksandr Dugin as defenders of the Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment. This dialogue is introduced by Rob Riemen of the Nexus Institute in the Netherlands.

The latter two videos date from before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There is the prevailing thought that Putin may be influenced by Dugin.

For many years, I have admired the depth of thought of Russian philosophers going back to Dostoyevsky (and beyond) and his reaction against nihilism and what became Communism. I find the influence of German mystical Romanticism in this Russian traditionalism and integralism very interesting. When I was at seminary in the early 1990’s, I entertained the idea of going to Russia, once I would be ordained a priest, to minister as a Roman Catholic priest and celebrating in both Byzantine and Roman rites to people emerging from the yoke of Communism. It went no further than a few Russian lessons from a book and a tape, and of course, my love of Nicholas Berdyaev and others.

On the surface of things, I remained in the western world close to home. Are the things that inspired and enamoured me now to be cancelled? Is the Romanticism that motivates me to a new understanding of Christian spirituality a root of nationalism, fascism and the will to crush the human soul in favour of the collective? In the mind of Soloviev, is this not the salient characteristic of the eastern soul, the total passivity of the Slavic people?

Following a joking suggestion from the first video, I made it into the title of this piece. Pushkin, not Putin. The evil committed in a country, and even in that country’s name, should not cancel out the beauty and goodness in that country’s history. Should I hate Bach, Schumann, Beethoven, Novalis, Göthe and so many others because of the period under the Nazi tyranny of Hitler, Hydrich, Göring, Göbbells and the others. Germany lived under the shame from 1945 until now when the decision was made to help Ukraine by providing weapons to fight the Russian army.

We run a terrible danger of repeating the same nihilism of Dostoyevsky’s Demons or Notes from Underground as we collectively encourage and foster the Borderline and Narcissistic personality disorder.

When I was at university, I seriously considered conversion to Orthodoxy as I became disillusioned with integralist Roman Catholicism. Like culture, Christian spirituality and philosophy have to be detached from that lust for power and domination. The same temptations subsist in Orthodoxy or indeed any religious and political institution.

I have walked by intuition, and my eyes are being opened by this clash of two ideologies, neither of which are mine. The Woke movement shares many of the characteristics of the Russian nihilists of the 1860’s. This shadow must be faced within each of us if we are to hope for a future. I see more and more evidence that we as a people, humanity, are becoming conscious of something that will bring our salvation. May God, Our Lady and the Saints make it so, and may we heed prophecy and walk the ways of God.

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The Long Table

A number of journalists have wondered why Putin only talks to people from each end of an enormously long table.Perhaps it is to avoid assassination by poisoning, something for which the Russians (or at least the re-named KGB and dark personalities) are past masters, or to intimidate the foreign politician trying to negotiate with Putin. There may be other reasons…

I am something of a James Bond fan, and I notice that the long table as a symbol was present in this film from the 1970’s The Spy Who Loved Me. If you remember, it is about a billionaire villain who captures British and Russian submarines loaded with nuclear missiles in order to destroy the world, and create his new world under the sea. This clip is the final confrontation where the baddie meets his Karma.

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Lenten Iconoclasm

This is a couple of days early, but my little oratory is in Lenten Array for the first time. I modified the altar frontal from the old chapel to fit the smaller altar and to eliminate the wooden frame.

The English / Sarum use veils the icons and statues of the church from the beginning of Lent unlike the Roman rite which veils from I Vespers of Passion Sunday and in violet veils. This is a plain off-white or light ashen colour with blood-red trimmings and crosses. The crucifixes are also veiled and display a black cross.

A brief explanation of the Lenten Array is found here – Lenten Array in the Sarum Use. I also wrote about it myself: Lenten Array. Why this temporary iconoclasm?

Lent is a time of mourning, and the iconography of the church is covered so that we lament for our souls that are dead in sin. We relive the catechumenate of the early Church, because Lent is that time of preparation for the passage from death to life with the resurrected Christ. It all begins with compunction before we can rebuild our lives in God’s grace. Even the image of the Crucified is veiled and covered with an image of a black cross symbolising pain, torment and death.

I can assure you that Easter is that much better shown when the church has been veiled for so long and not only the last two weeks of the Lenten Fast.

I am struck by the story of Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. When Lady Marchmain dies, the chapel at Brideshead is closed.

[The priest] emptied the holy water stoup and blew out the lamp in the sanctuary and left the tabernacle open and empty, as though from now on it was always to be Good Friday. I stayed there till he was gone, and then, suddenly, there wasn’t any chapel there any more, just an oddly decorated room.

In the service of Tenebrae, we hear the lamentation of the Jews over Jerusalem

How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! how is the mistress of the Gentiles become as a widow: the princes of provinces made tributary! . . . her children are led into captivity: before the face of the oppressor . . . her princes are become like rams that find no pastures.

Such is human vanity. As World War II approaches, the family described by Waugh disintegrates, but there are signs of grace in man’s agony and humiliation. Ἔρως becomes ἀγάπη. The love of sensual pleasure gives way to the austere reality of self-sacrifice and altruism. The Halcyon Days, Et in arcadia ego, are over – and the reconstruction must begin. Thus even our love for beauty must give way to our truth before God.

As I write these lines, I cast my mind to the present situation of war unleashed by President Putin against the Ukraine, possibly in the very name of Orthodox Christianity and the ambition to restore Christendom. At other times of Russia’s history, hatred and murder were motivated by nihilism and the Communist ideology. Now, it seems to be in the name of a caricature of Christ. Will this bring the world to God and Christ, in the midst of scandal upon scandal. Maybe what Lent will be about this year is the absolute veiling of God’s love and beauty and our being abandoned to our nihilism. That would be the ultimate asceticism!

The time of Lent is set in the liturgical year, but this truth hitting our world and contradicting our virtue-signalling in America and Europe may go on a lot longer. The Covid pandemic and the first lockdown  two years ago were but a “little rehearsal” compared with what we may be facing. We can pray and hope that no one would be insane enough to use nuclear weapons, the stuff of our childhood nightmares during the Cold War in the 1960’s. We were spared then, through the Cuba missile crisis, and we are still here today – but under a new threat. I am in my early 60’s and no longer matter. I feel sorry for the young and hopeful.

The veils will remind us of this truth with which we must come to terms. May our Christian life not be that of Putin or the Patriarch – but of St Seraphim of Zarov or St Benoît-Joseph Labre, that of the fools for Christ, something so well understood by Dostoyevsky, Berdyaev and many others.

Oh no, the veils are not a game or decoration like the Christmas tree. Down we go before we can come up again – renewed.

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Traditional Anglican Church in Britain

I have been contacted by Fr Michael Gray of The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain.

He asked me to update the link in the sidebar of this blog. He refers me to the site of the TAC, which now refers to Traditional Anglican Church (not Communion) – Traditional Anglican Church. This is the ecclesial body now headed by Archbishop Shane B. Janzen with Bishop Michael Gill as the Secretary to the College of Bishops. I remember meeting some of those bishops at the College of Bishops in Portsmouth in 2007, then presided by the late Archbishop Hepworth.

The TAC has recently entered into a relationship of Full Communion with the Anglican Province of America. The Anglican Province of America is a part of the grouping of continuing Anglican Churches known as the G-3 (G-4 before the Diocese of the Holy Cross joined the ACC). See G-4 Anglicans become G-3 as DHC joins ACC from the ACC website. This convergence brings our Churches ever closer together, and I, as a priest in the ACC, am overjoyed to see the TAC recover from the traumatic events of ten years ago.

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Ten Years

I have overshot the tenth anniversary of this blog. The first posting was Invitation of 17th January 2012, in which my desire for change was apparent. Change from what? I had been one of the co-authors of The Anglo-Catholic (now defunct) and in about 2010, I began The English Catholic to counter the increasingly polemical tendencies of those who wanted to go to the Ordinariate and those who did not. By 2012, I had been in the TAC for about seven years and was effectively orphaned at this point. It took me another year to approach the ACC and Bishop Damien Mead.

My English Catholic blog did not please some and I had many really nasty comments. I will not mention the name of a genuinely radical Roman Catholic demon living and working in Japan. I was perhaps experiencing the same conflicts within. There were the several “narratives” of the Ordinariate and endless cognitive dissonance for all. Anglicanorum Coetibus was not about the TAC but the Forward in Faith bishops in England and a few in America. The canonically irregular Archbishop Hepworth would not receive any concessions, though some of his clergy might! I was not to be one of them, and I never made any application to Rome.

I very definitely reacted away from Roman Catholicism and its Counter-Reformation expression, even though such a reform movement was necessary in the sixteenth century. What I found most objectionable was the “technocratic” scholasticism in the traditionalist world, a kind of hyper-rationalism – coupled with popular lay religion. I sought along the lines of Northern Catholicism, one of the pillars of Anglican claims. I had yet to look into the influence of Romanticism, without which Christianity would have just about disappeared from Europe already in the nineteenth century.

Only this morning, I read an article in which a conservative Anglican author blames Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) for the present claims of the gay movement or other expressions of “identity politics”! Schleiermacher was one of the leading lights of German Romanticism reacting away from the excesses of Enlightenment rationalism in the direction of “liberalism” and a better balance between the human individual and the collectivity. One might as well blame Christ for the ills of the world as power and the will force out loving-kindness and compassion! Abusus non tollit usum!

The “trolls” who caused trouble in my previous blog, also deleted in 2012, have largely disappeared in the context of the Bergoglio / “Padlock” Roche regime. For that I am grateful, and I have been able to learn my own lessons.

This blog attracts the same numbers of readers each day as over the years, generally a couple of hundred to double or triple that when I write an article that appeals to the curious or the polemical. Each reader will (or will not) find what is of interest to him or her. Many things have changed in my own life.

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From Despair to Light

I read something yesterday which turned over in my mind, but at the same time I felt quite revolted about it. It was someone’s opinion about his refusal of all notion of God or meaning to life. He was not merely absurdist like Albert Camus but a true nihilist. According to this view, we are alone as living creatures in a vast, cold, dead and hostile universe. The person expressed his idea that suicide was a legitimate way out of the depression and utter boredom of it all, or at least inventing our own meaning based on pleasure and getting what we can get out of the world whilst we are still here. The more we think of it, the more this nihilism is offensive and conducive to madness.

We are confronted with the mystery of death, and the nihilist’s conviction that nothing lies beyond it. We pass from existence to inexistence. The thoughts wandered through my mind as I wondered if any other philosophy of life than nihilism was an illusion, wishful thinking. If anything, materialism is an illusion. Matter is only the product of consciousness and energy, and some branches of science come close to proving this when moving away from Newtonian physics to quantum theory.

I was on the verge of letting this subject go and not writing anything, when I discovered Michael Martin’s Romanticism, the Nones, and the Future of Christianity. My own attraction to Romanticism and Platonic metaphysics long predated my discovery of Mr Martin’s site centred on the theme of Σοφία, often symbolised by Mary the mother of Jesus and Θεοτόκος by virtue of the Communication of Idioms, the principle of the theological discipline of Christology that establishes the divinity of Christ. The Holy Wisdom is much more than even Our Lady.

This article reflects so many of my own intuitions over the past few years. The first is that Romanticism is not dead. Michael Martin, like myself, sees an almost perfect analogy and comparison between the period 1790 to 1830 and the same years two centuries later. We are concerned about the same anti-human forces in this world, the nihilism I described above, and that love which is expressed in beauty, art, poetry and the sublime degree to which human beings can come into communion and symbiosis.

He goes into the influence of Jacob Böhme’s mysticism on Nicholas Berdyaev, Novalis and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin among others. We also find a convergence of Sophiology and Gnosticism.

Some of the Romantics denied Christianity and the God of churches – but not all. This is why I have focused my own attention on William Blake and Novalis. It is impossible to discuss these two men without bringing Christianity into the equation.

There is meaning to life and we are not “biological machines” with no soul. Michael Martin finds little of interest in the institutional churches, most of which leave me with a strong feeling of nausea. Churches are crumbling like all institutions like education, politics and business. Groupthink is incapable of appealing to idealistic and noble minds!

Romantia Christiana is here, and I have given this name to my YouTube channel. I am a priest and I serve the small Anglican Catholic Church under the direct jurisdiction of its Metropolitan, Archbishop Mark Haverland. The lovely thing about a small Church is that it lacks top-heavy bureaucracy and the death-wish characteristic of the so-called “mainstream” Churches. I try to give another dimension of Christianity through music and a philosophy of “universal love” shared between the teachings of Christ, Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhists call loving kindness Metta, an attitude of universal love that is radiated to all living beings in the world without discrimination. I cannot but suggest that the future of Christianity belongs to minds influenced by Romanticism and the Platonic transcendentals of beauty, truth and goodness, three components of perfect love.

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Validity of a Church’s Orders

There has been a recent scuffle on the internet about the validity of Orders in the Anglican Catholic Church. The person concerned is a priest of one of the American continuing Anglican Churches and seems to be drifting towards the position of radical Roman Catholic traditionalism. For those people, putting it simply, there are no valid Orders anywhere, except possibly in the Orthodox Churches. Even that would be doubtful because the Sacraments would be deprived of validity through the changes in the rites (cf. Apostolicae Curae) or the lack of the power of jurisdiction from the Pope. If there is no Pope, hard luck!

This is certainly a caricature that does not reflect the position of most traditionalists and sedevacantists. The reductio ad absurdam would seem to invalidate the claims of all sacramental Christianity. Either Christianity is all bunk or the Protestants were right. It is not my intention to write an apologia for the Orders of the Anglican Catholic Church. Nothing would change the belief of a person who is convinced of the contrary. The matter has been discussed recently, and Fr Jonathan Munn expresses a desire for help to get his ideas together on this subject. I think he has done very well for himself as he has written on his own blog article DUK Birthday Preparations. He feels daunted not so much by the questions of Donatism, St Augustine and St Cyprian but the tangle of canon law. One problem with the traditionalists is ontologising canon law, making ontological reality out of conventions and laws in spite of principles of interpretation like ἐπιείκεια (the principle in ethics that a law can be broken to achieve a greater good.) and salus animarum suprema lex. Canon law cannot be used (or interpreted) to “suicide” the Church. This diabolical dilemma of choosing between validity or liceity is nonsense. The machine has a dead-man’s handle and a pressure safety valve.

Roman Catholicism traditionally follows the anti-Donatist theology of St Augustine, which would make it theoretically possible for a bishop to use his sacramental powers to ordain and consecrate bishops and priests of nothing (episcopi vagantes). Eastern Orthodoxy follows the Cyprianic position according to which such wantonly irregular ordinations are not only illicit but invalid, lacking any sacramental power. The most extreme position I have found expressed by a serious theologian was Cyrille Vogel in Ordinations Inconsistantes et Caractère Inamissible.

In his preface, Vogel approaches the Roman Catholic position very critically. This contested position is resumed by saying that any bishop or priest, even under excommunication or other canonical sanction, who confers an ordination using the rite of the liturgical books and with the intention of “doing what the Church does”, does so validly. Usually, the Church will not accept and canonical effects of such an ordination, and will receive a repentant person in the state in which he left the Church. Thus a priest having received an illicit episcopal consecration would be received back as a priest, but generally in practice as a layman. The immediate consequence of this doctrine is the multiplication of episcopi vagantes and priests without a canonical title or mission. Frankly, why would we care in our world of absolute religious diversity?

This principle depends on the conferring of a metaphysical and ontological “character” in the recipient’s soul. “Once a priest, always a priest“. This character is deemed to be indelible or inamissible (word not to be confused with inadmissible). Vogel’s thesis is that such a doctrine is foreign to all the oriental Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonian Churches. It is also foreign to the Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht and the Churches of the Reformation including Anglicanism. For Vogel, if a priest or a bishop loses the canonical exercise of his ministry, he also loses the very quality of his ordination and lapses back to the lay state. I know of no translation of this book in French into English, but its methodology and use of authorities and quotes is impeccable. It would be a difficult one to refute.

Roman Catholicism has tended to declare the ordinations of “heretical bodies” invalid, not for canonical reasons, but because the rites had been modified manifesting a “positive contrary intention” (I don’t intend to do what the [Roman Catholic] Church intends). Apostolicae Curae of 1896 promulgated by Pope Leo XIII is based on this principle. Similarly, the traditionalist priest Fr Anthony Cekada wrote these pieces to use the principles contained in Apostolicae Curae to conclude the invalidity of ordinations and consecrations conferred in the Roman Catholic Church but using the rites promulgated by Paul VI.

I am not endorsing this position but merely showing that it exists and needs to be approached critically. It almost concurs with the reply to Apostolicae Curae by the Anglican Archbishops in 1896, Saepius Officio in which this observation was made:  In overthrowing our orders, he [Leo XIII] overthrows all his own, and pronounces sentence on his own Church. It is also striking that the Anglican Archbishops affirmed belief in the inamissble character of ordination. If you go to the crankier elements of the sedevacantist world, you will find ideas like SSPX being invalid because Archbishop Lefebvre was consecrated by a Freemason! The end is nigh!!!

He also wrote, perhaps approaching Vogel’s position, at least partially. Episcopi vagantes in the USA are a real problem for the traditionalists and sedevacantists. Many are indeed quacks and charlatans, and discredit the more serious among independent clerics.

The following is another study on untrained traditionalist clergy. (1) Canonical criteria for determining fitness for priestly ordination. (2) Sinfulness of conferring orders on the unfit. (3) Orders conferred by the unfit enjoy no presumption of validity. (4) The unfit may not exercise their orders. (5) Objections and answers.

All that gives a lot of information about these questions of “us and them”, how “we” have valid orders and can claim to be or represent the true church, and how we can arrive at the certitude of “their” orders being invalid. Therefore, “their” church is false, a counterfeit, a forgery, a deception against which the uncritical faithful – like children – have to be protected.

If my readers are interested in this question, I invite them to open the above links and read the available literature. I haven’t the heart to go into all this. It makes me quite nauseous. However, I am prepared to be helpful by asking the question “Have you thought of …?

There are several parts of the question about Orders in the Anglican Catholic Church.

The first is Anglican Orders in General. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches re-ordain clergy who convert to them. Most Orthodox Churches also re-ordain Roman Catholic clergy who swim the Bosphorus. Sedevacantists re-ordain priests who were ordained with the Pauline rites. I suspect that the SPPX does the same thing. The big question is Valid for whom? Do we have to be approved of by the Roman Catholic Church? Are they the judges of everything, even more so given that there is a case against their own orders?

I am brought to the dilemma of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado opera saying that the village executioner may not cut off another’s head until he’s cut his own off! Self-decapitation is both difficult and dangerous (ouch)! I am tempted to approach this problem of each-other’s ordinations with the same flippancy.

Even though we do not use the 1568 Roman Pontifical, our rites do express the intention of doing what the universal Church does. From the beginning, our Church has constituted a College of Bishops. This constitutes a Particular Church which is not the Universal Church but participates in the Universal Church. When receiving clergy from elsewhere, our Church often uses the sub conditione solution for re-ordination. The SSPX explains conditional ordination in scholastic and canonical terms. I too received conditional ordination from Bishop Damien Mead when I came to the ACC. I had been ordained a deacon regularly in the Roman Catholic Church (to boot, in the traditional Roman rite from Cardinal Palazzini who had been consecrated in the old rite), but to the priesthood by a bishop who had been consecrated by the flamboyant +Clemente Dominguez y Gomez, himself consecrated by Archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo-Dinh-Thuc. The conditional ordination simplifies a lot of potential polemics: I am valid for the Church to which I belong. I refer to my original ordination of 24th June 1998 for my anniversary celebrations. That is standard practice.

Post-Reformation Anglicanism has other ways of dealing with irregular ordinations. To this day, the Church of England will not accepts priests it has not itself ordained. I would be on shaky ground trying to deal with that point of view. This short article Valid but Irregular sheds some light on how things are judged by Church of England authorities. The title Valid bu Irregular suggests a similar position to that of the Roman Catholic Church, definitely not Cyrille Vogel’s position!

One problem evoked is episcopal consecration by a single bishop or at least less than the usual three. Many Roman Catholic consecrations, especially in missionary or persecution situations, have been allowed to be conferred by a single bishop. When Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops in 1988 for the SSPX, he had one co-consecrator, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer. Rome condemned the consecrations for their irregularity but affirmed them to be valid. There are certainly extraordinary situations when regular Anglican consecrations were conferred by only one bishop. If anyone can find examples, I would be delighted to hear about them. Would the ACC lack validity because it was not founded by a canonical act of the Anglican Communion “in communion with Canterbury”? The question seems absurd. Being in a state of schism or dissidence has never affected validity except for the Orthodox. At least in practice, all Anglican Churches subscribe to the inamissible character of ordination. Only the very low church people would deny that ordination is a Sacrament.

The cleric who started all this asked Archbishop Haverland to “let him go” quietly as a condition for not kicking up a fuss. Someone else tells me that he is very near to some quite cranky traditionalist or sedevacantist groups in America. It is a classical move: “burn up” one’s old church before making a move, which justifies the person’s “unstable” move and change of allegiance. In spite of my Archbishop’s reasonableness and respect of the cleric’s desire to make a move, the cleric has made a big fuss after all.

It is plain that the Anglican Bishops who conferred the Episcopate on the ACC acted with the intention of continuing their own Church in the context of a crisis situation making objectively schismatic acts necessary and justifiable. I have no problem with the validity and liceity by epikeia of such an act.

Like Fr Munn, I remain committed to participating in the priestly ministry of the Anglican Catholic Church as a whole and I continue to participate actively in the Diocese of the United Kingdom as a priest in the Patrimony of the Metropolitan. For the others, all I can say is Bien faire et laissez braire! Let us do good ourselves whatever noise others make like braying donkeys.

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Addition from 28th January 2022. This article by Sarah Wagner-Wassen (wife of one of our priests) has just appeared, which is a brief history of Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Catholic Church. The bestowal of episcopal orders — the case of the Anglican Catholic Church

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