Catholicism or Catholic Church?

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…

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12 Responses to Catholicism or Catholic Church?

  1. Fr. Bobby C. Hall says:

    “two canonical Orthodox Churches have established western rite vicariates”,

    How very true! The Antiochian Western Rite is very receptive to those who have been duly burnt by the Roman Catholic Church. The following information concerning their liturgy has been extracted from their web site

    “We utilize the Liturgy of St. Peter (commonly known as the Liturgy of St. Gregory), is found, substantially as it has been used in the Latin Church until Vatican II (1969)1, in the Sacramentaries of St. Gregory [590], Gelasius [491] and St. Leo [483]. The Roman Liturgy is attributed to St. Peter by ancient liturgical commentators, who founded their opinion chiefly upon a passage in an Epistle of Innocent [fifth century], to Decentius, Bishop of Eugubium. St. Gregory revised the variable parts of the liturgy, the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels; but the only change which he made in the Ordinary was by the addition of a few words which is noticed by the Venerable Bede [Hist. Eccl. Lib.2, c.I.].

    Since the time of St. Gregory the Roman Liturgy has been used over a large part of the Western Church, and, until 1969, was practically the only one allowed by Rome. From the Roman Liturgy in its primitive form were derived that used by the Churches of North-western Africa, and the Ambrosian Rite of the Church of Milan.

    Also in 1904, Archbishop Tikhon received a response from the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to his inquiry regarding the potential Orthodox use of the “Holy Communion” from the American Book of Common Prayer. The Holy Synod noted various problems, mostly the omission of standard Orthodox devotions, such as the invocation of Saints, and an explicit “descending” Invocation of the Holy Spirit. Archbishop Tikhon was directed to make such corrections as he thought convenient and provide a usable adaptation of this Liturgy for practical use with convert Anglicans.

    In addition to these two changes, the Western Rite includes other indiscernible changes that Latin Roman Catholics and most Anglo-Catholics (High Church Episcopalians) would find to be either familiar or certainly acceptable. As some Latin Rite Roman Catholic parishes as well as Protestant Churches continue their decline by denial of basic Catholic faith, doctrine and worship by turning to inclusive language liturgies, which refer to God as mother (to name but one example) and promulgate woman “priests,” many traditional Catholic Christians of both the Roman and Anglican backgrounds are turning to the Orthodox Catholic Church.”

    In addition the Antiochian Western Rite is holding a conference August 7-10 at St Gregory University and Monastery in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Further information may be obtained on their web site. All in all it might justify a look see based on current conditions.

    • Dale says:

      The western rite in Antioch really has no support whatsoever. All of their parishes in England were Byzantinized; as have most of their parishes in the United States. The largest numbers of western rite Orthodox are in the Philippines and the Australian Antiochian authorities readily admit that such a use is only temporary. The so-called western rite in the Russian Church is so heavily Russified that one wonders “why even bother.”

      • Dale says:

        Here is the web site of the original flagship parish of the Antiochian Orthodox western rite,, nuff’ said.

      • As always, I’ll need to take your word for it. Myself, I have never followed up any idea I once had of going that way. If something somewhere has worked out in the Antiochian and Russian jurisdictions, I suppose it would have been worth it for those involved.

        Again, I don’t consider Churches as a whole, but local parish and monastic communities. What is important is the “man-machine interface”, without which no Church is any more than a Platonic idea, and completely irrelevant.

    • It is quite similar to my initiative for isolated priests and for those who for any reason are no longer incardinated in a church. New Goliards. Priests who are incardinated in a church, as is my case (TTAC in England), can also unite in their prayers and minds. My initiative also is purely spiritual and not a pseudo-jurisdiction. There are too many of those!

  2. Michael Frost says:

    Having worshipped at St. Vincent of Lerins, Antiochian Orthodox (Western Rite), Omaha, Nebraska, from 1995-2010, when I moved, all I can say is how wonderful the Western Rite was, is, and continues to be. St. Vincent’s is going strong more than 20 years after its founding. I would encourage anyone interested to investigate our Western Rite.

    • Dale says:

      At one time all of the Antiochian parishes in South Carolina were western rite, now none of them are. When Abouna Hallam, dean of the English Antiochian Church was recently approached about the western rite his only response was, “The western rite is not on the table.”

  3. Tom says:

    Dale, you write that “the so-called western rite in the Russian Church is so heavily Russified that one wonders ‘why even bother.'” However, it’s not correct to speak of a single Western rite blessed for use in the ROCOR: there are a number, one of which is the Sarum Use of the Old Roman liturgy.

    I think the only “alien” element you will find in the Sarum is a descending epiclesis, which is something you will still find in all Orthodox Western rite (unfortunately, in my opinion, but there you go).

    • Dale says:

      Here are some photos of the so-called “Sarum Liturgy”; very odd indeed:

      Here are some photos of one of the Russian western rite parishes (notice the rather odd headgear):

      Hardly western. The collection of photos of the clergy of the Fraternity of St Gregory is full of Russian style klabooks, kamilavkas, raisas etc. Hardly Western.

      • Dale says:

        I know we are getting tired of this but I thought I would re-post an older reply that I posted several months ago on this issue:

        One of the real issues is that, especially in England, the western rite is considered as non-Orthodox by the leaders of the Orthodox Church, and is considered to be only temporary. This is what Abouna Gregory Hallam has to say about the western rite in his own jurisdiction (He is dean of the British Antiochian Greek jurisdiction in England):

        “These are the reasons we don’t use the western rite(s) …

        (1) They are nothing more than the old American Prayer Book and a pre-Trent rescension of the Roman rite. Both are archaic, theologically deficient and poorly supported by seasonal mnaterial.
        (2) The unchurched in the UK are neither put off by nor attracted to ANY particular rite … provided it’s Orthodox in ethos. Those yearning for Sarum Redressed are a very limited constituency of existing Christians … not those who have not yet heard the gospel.
        (3) There is nothing alien about the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the vernacular. If it’s good enough for South Africans, the Innuit and the Japanese it arguably travels well and is good enough for us as well.
        (4) Redressing old western rites is an archeological exercise … it does not connect with a living rite right now.”

        He goes on to say:

        “Who are “those who need it” beyond a certain shrinking class of former Anglicans who mourn the passing of the Prayer Book? That seems to me to be both an impoverished idea of evangelism (which means reaching those who have no acquaintance with the Christian Eucharist whatsoever) and a very uncertain strategy for helping former Anglicans to become Orthodox. The jolt to the system I think on the whole is rather good. This is definitely not “ole time relijun” in Orthodox dress.

        And yes, I am familiar with western rite material and it doesn’t come anywhere matching in breadth or scope what we already have.”

        And further:

        “My objections to the western rite (AS THEY STAND) are theological and liturgical. I am not against the principle of the western rite per se … just not THESE western rites and not without a major expansion and development of associated liturgical materials.”

        In Australia, where all western parishes have already adopted the greek rite, Fr D’Alton has readily, and honestly, admitted that the western rite is only a stepping stone until the full Greek rite can be adopted (this is in regards to the western rite in the Philippines, where the largest numbers of western rite Orthodox can be found):

        “Any concern over current liturgical practices should be seen in perspective of a temporary transition toward the proper St John Chrysostom liturgy. ”

        He goes on to say:

        “Any concern over current liturgical practices [the western rite] should be seen in perspective of a temporary transition toward the proper St John Chrysostom liturgy.”

        (,15199.385/wap2.html &,15199.390/wap2.html)

        And in an officially approved text from the Antiochian Archdiocese in the United States we find this interesting tidbit ( “These Things We Believe,” by an Antiochian deacon, Ezra Ham, who serves at St. Elijah Orthodox Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. ):

        “Western Christianity, in all its expressions (whether Catholic, Protestant or so-called Western Orthodox) shares the same ontological and dualistic ecclesiology. Following Plato’s dualism, Western Christianity speaks of a God outside the box and creates a church inside the box. For the West, the Kingdom of God exists in heaven, but it is men who create the Kingdom of God on earth.
        Western worship, regardless of whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Western Orthodox so-called, is man-made.”

        Please notice that I have only posted writings by members of the Orthodox Church in positions of authority, so please realise that none of this in my personal opinion, it is, as it were, from the horse’s mouth. In the end for a “western” tradition to be acceptable amongst them, it must be so completely hellenised that it would cease to be western, so why bother. As another posted mentioned, the Byzantines seem very fixated upon being Orthodox, but Catholicity amongst seems woefully lacking. And finally, if there was real support for the western rite, even in Antioch, why are such people appointed to positions of authority

  4. Tom says:

    Father Anthony, I think I understand what you mean when you say “I don’t consider Churches as a whole, but local parish and monastic communities. What is important is the ‘man-machine interface’, without which no Church is any more than a Platonic idea, and completely irrelevant.” The parish community is where the soteriological rubber hits the road, and salvation is never abstract. In fact, I recently left an Eastern Orthodox parish which I’d come to realise was spiritually moribund – there was no real attempt to do any more than distribute the sacraments, as if these were magic bullets. However, I don’t think one should underplay the significance of the greater Church, otherwise one ends up congregationalist. Or to put it another way, being a member of the One, Holy , Catholic, and Apostolic Church is necessary but not sufficient.

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