The world of ‘Northern Catholicism’ and ‘Classical Anglicanism’ is necessarily vague, given the difficulty we all have had in defining ‘Anglican patrimony’ in relation to the Ordinariates in blogosphere conversations of about two years ago. Therefore, I cannot claim or pretend to be ‘dogmatic’ about these matters, merely to offer tracks for reflection.
With my somewhat ‘liberal’ and tolerant mindset (I believe Voltaire’s tolerance to be a virtue), I have my own opinions and convictions, but do not declare those of others to be invalid merely because they do not represent my way. I have an essentially Benedictine outlook on religious life, but actually am rather modern in my pastoral and the church and the world ideas.
I may have given the impression of being anti-American and chauvinistic as an Englishman, but I tend to share my father’s dry and ironic Yorkshire humour. It is interesting that I am not rejected as a lunatic or deluded because I see post imperialism being replaced by a more ‘confessional’ notion of the Church and its teachings. Questions are hard or soft from the point of view from which we see them. The same process happened in Roman Catholicism as the transition of power shifted from the Roman Emperor to the Pope, and the same thing to a lesser extent in Eastern Orthodoxy.
I am realistic enough to know that Christianity as a public expression of culture is a thing of the past. The wayside crosses and churches here in France remain, but their meaning in popular culture has changed. However, in most cases, there is no desire to demolish or otherwise destroy them – and indeed, many churches that see a priest less than once a year are restored and lovingly maintained by the local civil authority.
The ultimate disestablishment is the catacomb church, priests dressed as laymen and the Gospel lived in people’s hearts as a secret leaven. That is how it was in the era of the great persecutions. In most places (outside intolerant Muslim countries), we no longer risk physical persecution, but Christian belief and witness are no longer respectable. They are even seen as provocative and a violation of individual freedom of conscience. Sometimes the sun shines, and sometimes it rains. That is history.
At the same time, we need to keep the culture we have and hold dear. A few of us Christians remain, and we treasure our patrimony. Is it right to celebrate Mass according to a medieval rite in a situation when life in the catacombs would seem to indicate curtailing culture, ceremony, beauty, art and every aspect of Christianity other than the spoken and written word? No, we should keep what we have and persevere through the tribulations and adversity we face.
Protestantism? That word needs careful definition after what centuries of post-Tridentine polemics have done to it. Like beauty, protestantism tends to be in the eye of the beholder. It can be seen as a protest against medieval ecclesiastical corruption, a pro-test for a purer vision of Christian monotheism as opposed to the accommodation with the paganism of the un-evangelised masses.
Our friend who runs Anglican Rose, Charles Bartlett who is a member of the United Episcopal Church under Archbishop Peter Robinson (a person I esteem enormously), is welcome to quote me, and quote my quotes as much as he sees fit. I find his scholarly approach and courtesy refreshing. May the conversation continue, that our eyes be opened and we see light and peace!