Elegy for “The Anglo-Catholic”

The blog The Anglo-Catholic is gone and replaced with some kind of generic page. WordPress, which I am using for this blog, is free and advertising is relatively unobtrusive, but perhaps blogs get taken down when they have rotted on the hook for too long. Its moderator Christian Campbell may bring it back for the sake of the archives covering the process that led many continuing Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church via the Ordinariates. I doubt it.

The last time I took any interest in this blog was at the end of August 2012 when I wrote The Anglo-Catholic. Fr Smuts in South Africa was still active on his blog, another one that is in long-term hiatus. I was a contributor on Campbell’s blog until I took things into my own hands against a certain narrative about Anglicanorum coetibus in the English Catholic blog, which I myself closed down in early 2012. I was not yet ready to believe that Archbishop Hepworth was not a major player in the process and that he was to be black-balled, deep-sixed, call it what you want. During that time, I had a brief stint of being interviewed on the French traditionalist radio and speaking at conferences, until I too ceased to exist. The memories are fading. The death of The Anglo-Catholic has seemed to close the lid.

I was a priest of Archbishop Hepworth’s Patrimony of the Primate for the reason that I was living in a country where there was no TAC diocese. The Archbishop had taken me on in August 2005 from having spent years in the netherworld of RC traditionalism. I was using a static website as a primitive kind of blog and posted a series of postings, and this seemed to attract some attention in America.

In my earlier article, I wrote this about The Anglo-Catholic:

I was first contacted by Christian Campbell on 29th November 2009 to ask me whether I would become a contributor on this promising new blog. I accepted, and contributed a number of articles – which are still there. Finally, I discovered that the blog had its own “orthodoxy” and “police”, and my increasing resistance to the pensée unique ended with a rupture. I set up my own blog called the English Catholic, and this met with my expulsion from the Anglo-Catholic in the last days of August 2010.

It now seems to be common knowledge that Christian Campbell went off on his own tangent after his reception into the Roman Catholic Church. I found out very early on that he was going to a chapel of the Society of St Pius X and had adopted the traditionalist ideology. Fair enough, but hardly representative of the Rome-ward movement of “groups of Anglicans”. This culminated with polemics concerning the use of the pre-conciliar Roman rite in the ordinariates, whether in Latin or the Cranmerese English form in the English Missal. This and other issues caused Deborah Gyapong to pull out, since this kind of discussion would tend to discredit other Anglicans on their way over, but less concerned about the exact rite to be used. I have been quite surprised by some things CCCC put on his Facebook page, but they are entirely irrelevant to me and concern only his personal life.

Now, Fr Christopher Phillips has pulled out too, and Campbell himself has announced an indefinite hiatus. We might suppose that Monsignor Steenson has told those who are now Roman Catholics that ordinariate business is private and not to be discussed on blogs. That seems to ring with my recent article on secrecy, but I am not myself concerned with any Ordinariate anywhere. I will not speculate, but with no discussion and no coverage of any kind, the internal business of a “private club” is irrelevant to nearly all of us, as would be the yearly accounts of some provincial golf club in England.

There is an old quip about gentlemen’s clubs in London – that you know a member has died when there is an ungodly stench coming from behind the newspaper!

Fr Phillips, as a priest under jurisdiction, would have seen the need not to provoke problems for himself or his ministry. Similarly, Deborah Gyapong is a respected journalist and maintains excellent relations with the Roman Catholic Church in Canada. It is a question of professional integrity and keeping squeaky clean.

Sic transit gloria mundi. The Anglo-Catholic met a less radical demise than my English Catholic blog which I deleted. Campbell has his personal blog on which he writes about the things that interest him. I do the same thing here, but on different subjects and from another perspective. Should I say Good riddance? I do not take pleasure about negative things, but just find it sad. I have no feelings of “getting even” – I’m just not that kind of person. At the same time, time marches forward, and the religious world is not the same as it was in the heady days of 2007 and 2009.

In 2007 and November 2009, there was an objective to work towards. That is now irrelevant to all but a very few, and the future of the remnant TAC remains uncertain in spite of the rhetoric of the early months of 2012. Archbishop Hepworth wanted to keep something going for the clergy of the erstwhile Patrimony of the Primate who were still waiting for word from the ordinariates or had been rejected. Without a clear justification for any kind of structure, it seems hard to imagine that idea going anywhere. The storm clouds and gloom seem to gather as, for many of us, Godot never arrived and the batteries ran out.

The moral of all this is that Campbell and I made the same mistake, continuing to gnaw on the same bone year after year. My English Catholic blog had become too concerned with the ordinariate question and a continuing coverage of what was happening to Archbishop Hepworth. I ended up buckling under the nastiness of many of the comments and the same “political correctness” that dominated the Anglo-Catholic. This blog was designed to be more educational and intellectual, though I have often allowed myself to discuss the old problem.

The statistics page show that I get many more times read when I discuss the old problem than when I write about other subjects. I am not “in business” to attract attention or advertise myself. This should be a lesson to us all. Christian Campbell had something more gimmicky and full of gadgets than I ever thought about. He was constantly asking for donations. My blogs have never cost me anything and I have never collected a penny. He has his problems and I have mine.

The Anglo-Catholic looks like staying available for the sake of its archives, which can be consulted. My old articles are still there, as are many others of intellectual and historical interest. No Schadenfreude – but life has to go on. The lesson the dinosaurs bequeathed us is that we adapt or go by the wayside!

It all seems to be gone. I kept the archives of my English Catholic blog and I still cringe when I read some of the “troll” comments. I don’t blame them because I was pushing my own square pegs into round holes. It is the law of Karma! The dead flesh has rotted away and all that is left is a pile of musty shrouds in the darkness.

This blog took a different turn as I had to embark on a more introspective approach. I lived in a world to which I did not belong, with which I shared only an interest in liturgical life and rites. I seem to be about the only one left. Even Deborah Gyapong only occasionally adds something to her blog, usually involving family photos and unfamiliar faces in liturgical vestments in that nice little former TAC church in Canada. She keeps up with the same quiet optimism. Where else would she go? Triumphalism evaporated with the election of Pope Francis, and in many ways, those poor folk are reliving the long John Paul II and Paul VI years after the brief ray of light and hope.

The obituary seems now to be written, the undertakers have pulled their ropes out of the grave, removed the wooden planks and the little man in the mechanical digger can now fill in the grave now that the mourners have gone. I moved on long ago, not only by joining the ACC but also by my voyage of self-discovery over the years.


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13 Responses to Elegy for “The Anglo-Catholic”

  1. Patrick Sheridan says:

    I closed down my own blog because I felt that I had done, and said, and been all that I could do, and say, and be. What’s the point in returning again and again to an old obsession which has itself ceased to be of any interest? Would any of you be at all surprised that I profess total carelessness about liturgy now? I may take up writing again some day, far from now, but it certainly won’t be the old blog, and it’s highly likely to be unrelated to liturgical matters.

    Life goes on. Sic transit gloria mundi, as popes were admonished at their coronation rites.

    • I’m sure you will take up writing again, but when you have emerged out of everything that keeps your soul a prisoner (an idea that reflects my own experience). I’m sure you have been reading my recent reflections, one of which is the fact that we have to find a point on which we can negotiate and play the game with “neurotypicals”, namely nearly all the people round us. You are frank and uncompromising, but that also makes you alone. Look at the things you can do alone, and writing is one of them. You did try something about Tolkein, but you failed to attract the “neurotypicals”. Perhaps a theme of inner spirituality and knowledge, and write your ideas down and publish them in little books rather than on the blog. Your English writing talent is just waiting to be unlocked.

      Likewise, on my Sarum theme, all I am likely to do now is to finish doing the missal in English, the proofreading and find a publishing avenue. I head towards my solitary life in Brittany, and I need to get my writing mind organised.

  2. Dear Father Anthony,

    Whatever might be said about the recent sweep of history to which you refer, your blog continues to be a great source of inspiration and understanding. I read it, usually expecting to agree with some of what you write and to disagree with other bits, but always having to think prayerfully and examine the premises of my own positions. Occasionally I change my mind!

    Also, the range of positions (on just about everything) represented by those who participate in the comments is itself acknowledgment of your – and their – evenhandedness of scholarship and debate. In particular there is something very godly about your gentle openness and searing honesty that touches readers’ hearts and opens THEM to fresh understandings of old truths.

    What you do here is a real ministry.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing you God’s blessing in whatever the New Year brings as we look forward to more of that ministry through the blog.

    God bless you.

    • In not very long, I will be with you and we’ll have lots of time for discussion.

      My key to understanding my own life has been the discovery about a year ago of Aspergers Syndrome and discovering that you didn’t need to be a clumsy, hand-flapping geek for it to explain my difficulties that go through my childhood, school, work, seminary and everything. I had to interact with +Hepworth’s personality disorder and declare my own independence.

      I lay no claim to infallibility, and I fully understand if someone finds me to be plainly factually wrong or at the limits of orthodoxy. I have always been drawn to interior Christianity rather than the social and political dimension of the Pax Christiana. I will go on with this blog, and hope to get some of my writings together and organise them into something publishable and of interest.

      Scholarship, as you know, takes a lot more work than hacking out blog posts, but I do work intuitively and without much in the way of research and planning. I am blessed with an extremely accurate memory! Thank you, Dr Asperger, to put it in that way. “Searing honesty” – and tactlessness too, as my father often put it when I was a child.

      I agree with you that blogging is a ministry, if it is based on personal integrity and a spiritual life, which I hope to improve when I will be single again. Many things will improve with that Benedictine balance between the Opus Dei, my bread-earning work, my academic work, gardening and / or workshop time and my recreation in my boat. It will be a lot less haphazard. The dream keeps me going…

  3. J.D. says:

    I sympathize with you guys. I started my own blog awhile back but found after awhile I’m just not interested in writing much anymore. Religion topics bore me to death these days, especially as they relate to Rome versus Protestant versus Orthodoxy versus Secularism or whatever. Even thr minutiae of liturgical or devotional topics or theology just bore me to death!

    I still pray,and I still love reading this blog but aside from the bare minimum I’ve moved on, hopefully to find some balance and rekindle old hobbies.

    • Thanks for the reflection. The message of the late “Anglo-Catholic” blog reminds me of a joke about a damned soul who arrives in hell. The Devil gives him a choice between stoking a red-hot furnace or standing up to the waist in shit drinking a cup of tea. Dives replies that the latter wasn’t very pleasant but was not as bad as the furnaces. Just as he makes the choice, Screwtape arrives on the scene and says “OK, lads, tea break’s over. On your heads!

      I make the difference between the inner approach to Christianity and the social / political idea which involves polemics and numbers of people to give the apologists the power and validation they crave.

      Indeed, old hobbies… I looked wistfully at my boat under its tarpaulin and a sheath of ice. About three years ago, I had a January sail on a lake, which was quite pleasant – the weather was unusually fair and mild. For you, it depends on whether your hobbies are indoor or outdoor…

    • Stephen K says:

      On the nearest Friday to today, three years ago, J.D wrote above “……….. Religion topics bore me to death these days, especially as they relate to Rome versus Protestant versus Orthodoxy versus Secularism or whatever. Even the minutiae of liturgical or devotional topics or theology just bore me to death! I still pray, and I still love reading this blog but aside from the bare minimum I’ve moved on, hopefully to find some balance and rekindle old hobbies.

      I came across this article and comment by accident this afternoon and reflected how apt it was to my own situation. Yesterday was St Stephen’s day, and I spent a little time listening to some you-tube presentations by Ted Nottingham. I find what he says about the essence and process of being a Christian very attractive. He has himself clearly travelled but it is obvious he eschews church empires in the quest for theosis.

      I have lately found myself the object of attention – encounters – with the local Jehovah’s Witnesses. About once every 2 months they visit me and we converse. Once, about 2 years ago, I went to one of their services. I get the sense of their commitment and mission – it is of the same kind as anyone who goes off to be a priest or religious or missionary. I can relate to them on a human level, which is, after all, the essential and important level. We exchange ideas and perspectives but in my eyes there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave or free, man or woman, and I sense that if Christianity means anything it must mean that there is no division between myself and those whom I meet. To find Jesus I find I must go, at one end, before, and at the other end, beyond, the church empires that man has built (and appears to have always insisted on building).

      This is just a personal reflection that has come out of a chance reading from amongst the many treasures in this blog. May the New Year that approaches bring deep spiritual good to you, Father, and all my co-readers.

      • Thank you for this reflection. You are in need of the almost lost mystical and esoteric tradition of Christianity, repressed in the early centuries of the protection of the Church by the Roman Empire. Revived discreetly in the Renaissance times and in the late 19th century. You need to sort out the wheat from the chaff. The meaning of the Bible is lost without the symbolism to some extent preserved outside the Church.

        I recommend reading Origen and St Gregory of Nyssa, Jakob Böhme and Berdyaev, Saint-Martin and Novalis. Your reflections on the JW’s remind me of my visit to my sister’s Primitive Baptist community in Leeds. I admire their sense of commitment, but to what? You should read about René Guénon. He ended up by becoming a Sufi, the contemplative part of Islam. His reasons need to be understood. What is there in Christianity that he was looking for but missed? He was constantly distracted and put off by the hundreds of charlatans of his day selling this or that secret tradition. Yet there is an interior way we all have to find.

        Keep away from the spirit of contradiction and the disputes. The social media are the worst, though a good use of Facebook is possible. The catacombs are the way to go…

      • Stephen K says:

        Dear Father, I thank you in return for your exhortations. And, with your permission, I would like to expand on your comments.

        Ted Nottingham is not the only articulator of your exhortation of the need for the almost lost mystical and esoteric tradition of Christianity but simply one to whose articulations I happen to have been drawn courtesy of the Internet. He comes after different readings and reflections over years and is but one paving-stone in the path on which I tread.

        To clarify, when I referred to ‘empires’ I did not mean first and foremost what we generally mean by the term ‘Roman Empire’. I meant the empires created by the institutions – Greek and Roman – protected by it, and striving to rule over people’s minds, souls and bodies.

        I absolutely agree that in the pursuit of wisdom the wheat must be discerned from amongst chaff. This is where the saying By their fruits shall you know them [Matt. 7, 16-20] seems to apply, but also one man’s meat is another’s poison. In the absence of a perfect, complete or universal hermeneutic, we must also remember the epistolarian’s injunction sobrii estote et vigilate.

        I also agree that the meaning of the ‘Bible’ – which I have come to view as a baroque and artificial construct – is lost without the symbolism to some extent preserved outside the (exoteric) Church (aka the mainstream). This was in fact the subject of my latest conversation with the JW’s in early December. They take the Bible as a complete self-sufficient instruction book (although ironically they apply an interpretative filter of their own to it.)

        Thanks to your persistent urgings, I am making a resolution to read and study in 2020 all the authors you mention. I am already comfortable with the idea of apokatastasis. The question what it was in Christianity that Guenon was looking for but missed may have been at heart the freedom from the (religious) commodity sellers [cf. Mk, 11, 15-18], and I think these are to be found just as much amongst the orthodox as the irregulars and fringes.

        Yes, we must find an interior way, but we cannot be press-ganged into it or anything sold as a substitute [i.e. name your dogma].

      • I am thankful for this dialogue, which can only serve to deepen and clarify our thought.

        I had never heard of Ted Nottingham, but his channel on YouTube seems interesting.

        One thing we will discover is that people proselytise, not because they care about the person, but because they find self-justification. I’m sure there are psychologists who have studied this phenomenon. One positive thing about being “on the spectrum” is that we see through the bullshit.

        What is important is to be able to be of assistance to those who show positive signs of seeking and “waking up”. My life in France has shown me the importance of the separation of churches and other religions from the State. Laïcisme isn’t perfect as a system and its early expressions involved persecution of believers, but it does help to protect people from the worst. There, I am totally at one with the Liberals of the early 19th century. The eternal Church needs to be expressed in small discreet groups and associations.

        I need to be discreet about apokatastasis, because many Christians feel that they can only be “true” Christians when others are constrained, garrotted, burned and then seen in eternal hellfire. It is all about the self-justification I mentioned above. The less said about the subject or any other “hot button”, the better. After all, eternal hell is little more than the ultimate Spanish Inquisition torture chamber!

        I warmly recommend Berdyaev’s Freedom and the Spirit. When I was up at Fribourg, this book unlocked for me the religious freedom issue – the golden calf of the traditionalists – and my mind was forever changed.

  4. J.D. says:

    You know it was you who got me to thinking about re connecting with nature and stuff outside religious topics. My hobbies are reading, especially old Dickens stories, Game of Thrones, Carl Jung, stuff on Islamic history and theology, writing, skateboarding, cycling, shadowboxing, tinkering in the garden, trying to learn a bit of computer programming and web design, and learning to cook better. My girl is Vietnamese and is phenomenal in the kitchen, and do I’ve been inspired to learn a lot from her. Tons of fresh homemade soups and stuff, and much much different than what I’m used to!

    I’m still very much praying the Jesus Prayer and using my Prayerbook but I’m trying to find that balance where the religious side of me is natural and a part of me and not something I obsess over to the exclusion of all else. Heck maybe I could write about that, about how to find that balance. Every topic or aspect of life that we obsess on can become unhealthy.

  5. Raúl says:

    Dear father,
    Many times I have thought and felt the same. If I definitely close my blog, Sursum Corda? I did it once, but re-opened it. Today I am no longer that tough Roman traditionalist, I knew Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism, but I think Sursum Corda, my blog, lost identity.

    • I fully understand what you mean by identity. If I ran my blog purely on the themes of a liturgical rite or a particular tradition within Christianity, I think it would soon dry up. What has kept this blog going since 2012 is that its identity is my own identity and way of thinking. Some people might not like that. That’s OK by me. They can look at what they want on the internet. I don’t try to please anyone.

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