Straight Talk

I promised to stop saying anything about the “old problem”, but have been following the threads of comments on Fr Smuts’ blog. When a step or two is taken back from the insult-hurling and black-and-white thinking, you get from time to time something that strikes home.

I have myself been hurt by Rome (or priests of that Church) to such an extent that I would never return to that communion. Perhaps that makes me an apostate, a schismatic, whatever. Most people in such a position would give up the Faith and cease to believe or pray. I cannot go that far, and can only seek to follow my little way as best I can as a “redundant” priest.

Now this is the last I will say on the subject: on one hand I cannot blame everything on Archbishop Hepworth and uphold the total innocence of the TAC bishops, and on the other hand I cannot avoid being aware of the ruthless manipulation from the part of some clerics in Rome. The KGB or Machiavelli couldn’t have done it better! I may be able to see that reasonably clearly, but am unable to take either side. I am exhausted by it all.

Out of the Frying Pan says:

As you suggest yourself, taken to its extreme, your [Mourad’s] argument would be that any bishop signing the CCC could not in conscience wait for a reply, let alone for an ordinariate to be set up. Whatever the bishops thought they were doing–and I venture to suggest that even bishops can be carried along on the wave of the moment by a persuasive orator and a herd mentality–some of them I am sure did it without much thought for (or perhaps even knowledge of) what they were signing as a symbol of the hope of corporate reunion, no matter how vain that hope now seems to be. Corporate reunion wasn’t offered, and when the TAC bishops declined the invitation, they in fact declined an invitation that was not issued to the TAC as a body. And Hepworth himself hasn’t returned. Some folk out there blame Hepworth for daring to approach Rome at all. I certainly don’t. Others blame him for using the TAC for the purpose of legitimising his return to Rome–that’s another matter, and not without a few cigarette cards discarded and trampled underfoot on the way. For myself, I might yet wind up in the Ordinariate, and was headed that way until I stood at the edge and looked into the heart of the Roman bureaucratic machine and saw the corruption and cover-up ‘appearances are everything’ mentality and the flagrant disregard for the truth. Perhaps one day I’ll recognise that all communions have their sinners as well as their saints, but right at the moment I’m reeling from the horror I’ve experienced. We might’ve had our Hepworth, but what I see in Rome seems all the more hideous for being institutionalised. A lot of it is cultural, of course. I expect I’ll get over it, but persistent attacks on TAC bishops who appear to have done one misguided thing without really thinking and are now held to it by those who seek to defend the man who put them up to it and hasn’t himself submitted to what has been offered in his case don’t help me to warm to it.

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7 Responses to Straight Talk

  1. Dear Father Anthony, what surprises me a great deal is that the likes of Bishop Michael Gill or any responsible TAC Bishop does not take any steps to have a closer look at Father Smuts’s blog , which does not only contain insults from both sides of the fence, but also reports leaked TAC documents from the Acting Primate and from the Australian Chancellor ( the ad clerum ), which should have NEVER been published for the whole to see. Did you see the publication of who has gone to the ordinariate and who has been rejected and who has not gone. The ultimate in gossip far and far removed from spreading the good news of Jesus our Saviour.

    Father Ed Bakker OPR

    • Neil Hailstone says:

      I am not sure whether this post is appropriate or will be allowed to be published. I would like to make the point that out ‘on the ground’ Roman Catholic priests and many bishops just get on with it, so to speak, regardless of the obvious failings of the hierarchy. After leaving the CE for reasons previously explained I have found myself made most welcome in the two RC churches I have been attending in the UK West Country and in Iceland by both clergy and people. I can say for a certainty that the dreadful paedophile scandal offended the ordinary members of the church even more than among the general community.I have found RC worship as a non communicant spiritually helpful both here in the UK and and in Iceland. The hymns and the liturgy are wonderfully inspiring in Icelandic. It brings to mind the centuries of catholic faith in Iceland which were brought to an end by great violence , greed and ignorance emanating from the then King of Norway. I think what I am trying to say is that there is much good in the RCC although reading around the blogosphere in some ex Anglican and continuing circles one would receive a contrary impression

    • I would prefer this subject not to be discussed on this blog. Too much damage has been done.

      They who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.

  2. Stephen K says:

    It is easy to follow the wrong thread and go off on a tangent. I always find it helpful to think about the original thought expressed, a kind of comprehension exercise. Or rather like looking for the main verb in a complicated Latin sentence. Only when you have located the principal thought can you make proper sense of the thing.

    Here, for example, I discern that the key sentence is Father’s “am unable to take either side.” This is what he leads up to. By way of colour, so to speak, he says he is exhausted by the events and controversy and conversation. And if we unpack the epitome, we see that it is because there is human frailty and bastardry of a kind all round.

    What do these things evoke in us? What is the thing we might constructively respond to? I suggest it is the distress that all these acts and events involving memberships, exclusions, conditional acceptances and condemnations cause to people who, in their private, unpressured moments, just wish and long for love, peace and knowledge and touch of God. We are humans who crave, first shelter, security, food but later love and affirmation. We get it in community that gives identity and purpose. But how many communities actually deliver? And how far can we blame “communities” and not utlimately the individuals who make them up? And, more crucially, how can we do the latter without realising and acknowledging that we ourselves have a part to play in this?

    Father, I feel your distress, weariness and sadness. In a sense the only way to keep sane and retain some sense or hope in the potential for spiritual joy and meaning is to keep fixed on the imperative from which all else flows. Namely, “love one another as I have loved you”. We cannot afford to wait for anyone else: we have to say, “what is it all about? Why, it is about me loving.” Take guilt-free pleasure and relief from saying Mass; sharing your insights; looking for the human good in your encounters, just one day at a time. Keep reading, keep sailing and communing with the God in his raw maritime nature, too. God is in each seagull. He is in each buttercup, each pebble on the beach. He is in each human too, though often less obviously.

    When I am inclined to simply throw the whole thing over, I think of Rowan Williams who for me represents a true Christian in the best sense. Listen to a man who can say this at

    God bless you!

  3. Stephen K says:

    I was struck by an implication of what I have said: that we ought not wait for anyone else. And I thought it needed to be fleshed out so people could reflect on it better. That is, that the Christian imperative is first and foremost a personal one. One often hears something to the effect that “faith needs community’ or ‘faith only makes sense in community’, and a lot of focus is placed on “Church” or “the Church”. This certainly characterises the angst with which much intra-Catholic controversy is engaged.

    But I think that though this is true to an extent, it is not central. I think that it is ultimately a mistake to think Jesus’ message is a church-qualified one. Churches are what we inevitably do. Jesus was teaching us about love and the kingdom, not about the church. What I am trying to suggest here is that at whatever moment in our experience we are struck by the power and force of the Gospel, or the person or life of Jesus as we know it, to be moved to “believe”, then it is unmistakeably a call to just “do it now”! It is not, I don’t believe, a call to “join a church so you can do it right”!

    No, “church” is what happens when different individuals independently decide to “do it” i.e. love as Jesus loved (or how they think Jesus told them). The “church” is indeed equivalent to “the kingdom”, but only where love is. People have mistaken the structures for the “Church”: no, it is love-in-action that constitutes the Church. The structures are man-made and designed to be “love-aids”. But we know that they are not the same thing at all, and may fail.

    I realise that at first glance this may seem like I am saying that the church is never or not a visible thing. But this is not so. I am simply suggesting that the traditional way of asserting the visibility (i.e. the accessible reality) of the Church was very much a Constantinian and later counter-reformational stratagem. It attributed the visibility to the hierarchy. On the contrary, I do believe “church” is visible – “love-in-action” IS visible. The paradox is that one CAN be a Christian without being IN a church, for being Christian is to be “church”..

    Perhaps others have thoughts on this.

  4. ed pacht says:

    I think the formulation of church OR individual is an asking of the wrong question. I find it frequently to be the case (in theology, in politics, and even in science) that assuming A to be true and not-A to be false (or vice versa) is a sad missing of the whole point. Isn’t it rather a case of assuming both A AND not-A to be true and the real question to be what truth results when both are put together. God is not three or one, but three and one. Christ is not God or man, but God and man. Predestination and free will are both true. Faith-alone and faith-and-works are both true. In the Eucharist, though various formulations may attempt to bring some kind of understanding, it simply cannot be rationally said either that it is not bread, or that it is not His Body. In some manner, in all these pairs and many more, both sides are true.

    Christianity is thus both corporate and individual, and the real challenge is to continually reimagine what kind of church results from this intersection. To lessen the importance of either side is to lose sight of the reality of the gift God has given us.

    • Stephen K says:

      ed pacht, what you say seems true to me too. I do not think I was formulating an either-or proposition though. Rather, that the will to act,respond, do etc.begins with or ultimately belongs to the individual, so that we realise that the “corporate” entity is individual wills-multiplied and in concert. It is not something that sits independently over and above, except in our abstracting, pattern-making minds.

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