No, this is not a polemical piece in regard to Rome, the ordinariates or anything else. It is simply to draw attention to one of the articles mentioned in a posting on Northern Catholicism I commented on yesterday. The article in question is Independent Catholicism and the Ecumenical Imperative.
After a good reading of this article, it seem that an essential message is coming through – a distinction between a tradition or a “way”, on one hand, and the church institution on the other. Fr Novak affirms the notion of Anglicanism as something that can survive the transformation of Anglican institutions into something different. He also affirms the necessity of communion and the Church as a whole.
Perhaps towards the end, we might feel the old knife digging in and twisting – everything is hopeless except the Ordinariates. Go on, it’s the only way! Your bishops voted for it so you have to! Actually, there are alternatives like the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia and Antiochian western rite jurisdictions. There is also the Union of Scranton and its timid outreach to Anglicans, presently waiting for the agony in England to come to an end – which didn’t happen in July and might happen in November. Another idea I get from this article is that continuing Anglicans can still go on in their present communities – but that can only be provisional and temporary.
What is Anglicanism? Prayer Book and 39 Articles? A fixation on a particular point of history? Being English and under our Monarchy, in the Establishment? A kind of “English Gallicanism” or Old Catholicism? Sarum and pre-Reformation popular religion like in eighteenth-century France? It is probably all these things, and is no longer any of them. Roman Catholic apologists have not been very helpful by characterising Anglicanism as simply Protestantism in which “private judgement” is put into opposition against the supreme, absolute and infallible authority of the Pope.
We get a good look through the various alternatives, especially in the USA, and the “alphabet soup” of smaller jurisdictions, some of which may have a weaker basis for self-justification. There is a certain “crossing” with “vagante-ism”, characterised by the existence of something calling itself a church for the sake of an individual who wants to be a bishop. So you get to be a bishop, and then what? It’s a very lonely existence!
We in the TAC got well and truly burned. The captain at the helm looked at only one thing – his compass bearing, and to hell with the rocks, fog and other ships. The ship was wrecked. Rome said to us “Yes, but as dismantled spare parts“. They would filter, screen and sift us, have every single priest send in his application and have his vocation re-evaluated from zero all over again. The rest – all that doesn’t matter just as long as they don’t tell anyone that they are institutionally dead. And by the way, forget it if you’ve already read the book, seen the film and been there! Some shipwrecked sailors are now picking through the bits of broken mast, pieces of companionways, barrels of preserved food and shreds of torn sails – looking at what they can salvage, and then rebuild. Those courageous men and women have my esteem and prayers, and they do not have to listen to the voices of those who have become Roman Catholics “Come in, the water’s warm“. “Just be patient and wait. Rome thinks in centuries“. Forget it. Either go over or stay and rebuild, or go somewhere else.
It’s in the nature of things: the small entity approaches the big entity because it is unable to compete. Big entity considers only one thing – what is useful to it and how it can get bigger and richer. There is no idea of helping the small entity in some way.
So there are alternatives – Orthodoxy and orthodox Old Catholicism. It all needs to be looked into. Certainly, what is happening now is without precedent. Rome has established the ordinariates, two canonical Orthodox Churches have established western rite vicariates, and the Union of Scranton (PNCC) is exploring ways of incorporating Anglicanism along lines that have been envisaged for decades by the ecumenical movement.
I have mixed feelings about unity initiatives. In the absolute, they correspond with the imperative of Christ (that they may be one), but should take the form of fusions of Churches by their bodies rather than bishops horse-trading between themselves. Small entity still gets gobbled up by big entity, and it’s always Roman Catholic clergy who made navigation errors who get the chop! It all becomes so tiring that the temptation is to give up and return to denominationalism (which is only possible really in the USA and to a lesser extent in other English-speaking countries).
It becomes increasingly difficult to remain Anglican. It is hardly a viable proposition here in France! One either re-locates to the right places, or change one’s fundamental orientations. The alternative to hard-line traditionalism or the “Novus Ordo” status quo is that of 95% of the baptised population – rien à foutre. Normandy is one of the areas where there is still a high level of religiosity, and the country churches get one Mass a month instead of once every few years in the dioceses in the process of going bust. Attending church services here in France, at least for me, is a soul-crushing ordeal. I would prefer to go sailing!
I think Anglicanism would have potential in France, but it is too afraid of being seen to proselytise among French Roman Catholics and lose its relationships with the local RC dioceses. Church of England Anglicanism in France is just deadpan. Any other kind of Anglicanism, they don’t know what it is.
Anglicanism as a “way” seems to be a kind of blueprint, separated from the institutions that have disowned it. It can be used by Rome, the Orthodox or the Union of Scranton. How successfully? Goodness knows. The notion of Anglican Catholicism is scoffed at by some of the RC apologist bores who lurk on the Internet and fill blogs with their asinine comments. I don’t believe the ordinariates will have any earth-shattering effect, though I can see them as stable communities facilitated by having the “brand” – thus credibility with the laity. Consumers go for brands and not generics, even if they pay more.
Perhaps my isolation puts me at a disadvantage, or perhaps it gives me an advantage of objectivity I wouldn’t have if I lived in the “right” place. As things are in the western world, I am not optimistic for the future of Catholic Christianity. Evangelical fundamentalism seems to be growing, but it is big business and religion founded on man’s baser instincts. The big institutions are keeping together, but they eventually have to give in to market demand. That is the limit of “religion for the masses”.
The way to go is inwards, but it is the solitary path. That’s something else…