The Elusive Anglican Patrimony

I have had discussions with my friend over the past couple of days, and the subject of the Ordinariates and Anglican Patrimony came up. I think that a lot of wisdom came out of these conversations, both of us being cradle Anglicans, admittedly he from a more Anglo-Papalist background and myself from English middle-of-the-road origins.

We went on the little pilgrimage to Hursley parish church and graveyard where Keble’s grave is lovingly maintained. The church was dark in the gloomy English January weather and I couldn’t find the light switches even though the vestry was open. The altar was in the “old” position and, presumably, the cross and candlesticks were in a safe place as a precaution against theft because they were not on the altar. The atmosphere was certainly quiet and serene. Everything was quite plain as would be expected from a Tractarian-era church. Though I called yesterday’s article Roots of English Catholicism, I made a slight error of judgement, because English Catholicism goes back much further than the 1830’s! I left the anomaly all the same. I approach the notion of Anglican Patrimony from a more Romantic than Enlightenment point of view.

My own experience of Anglicanism before “swimming the Tiber” in June 1981 was limited to organ playing and choral music. I was very badly catechised and knew very little about the Romantic-inspired Catholic revival in England. I saw many highly ritualistic parishes in London, lots of bells and smells and the old quip “If it hangs, put a tassel on it, and if it moves, incense it”. Most things I have done in my life have been badly prepared and based on illusions, certainly on account of my “different experience of life” and Roman Catholicism was one of them. I was not in the right time and place to have a real formation in Anglican ways other than anecdotes and books. That being said, I did get some insights.

One such insight was the old notion of the English parish incumbent, often a highly educated man with a love of a life of prayer and a pronounced pastoral zeal. From a time much longer ago than the Oxford Movement, there was John Wesley whose theology was founded on the riches of the Caroline Divines and Arminianism, very close to many themes found in Orthodox mystical theology. I have always noticed the collusion between the English movement and the equally Romantic struggle of French Catholicism to rise from the ashes of the Revolution. There was the Solesmes monastic revival and its effect on many of the parish clergy. The Abbey of Fontgombault still fulfils that role today with many parish clergy. Some of them are monastic oblates. This, I feel, is where we are going to find the essential of Anglican Patrimony, not in liturgical revival, even the Use of Sarum – but learning, spirituality and pastoral closeness to the people in the parish. A few have understood that, but very few.

I understand the underpinnings of Anglican Papalism, which essentially consists of looking to the Church of Rome as the source and centre of the Church’s unity. This is an idea that is very pronounced in the great work of Vladimir Soloviev, Russia and the Universal Church among others. There is a high view of the constitution Pastor Aeternus of Vatican I, that sets the “inopportune” but thankfully moderated teaching on Papal infallibility in the context of the Church. Even in that teaching, the Pope has no rights over the Church; he is Pope because he is the Bishop of the Church of Rome. It is an interesting perspective that needs study. Anglican Papalism led to a very Tridentine and then Novus Ordo liturgical style because it emphasised obedience to the currently approved rites of the Roman Church. However, the churches retained the unique English style as opposed to the nineteenth-century fantasies of questionable taste of France, which found their way into England and Ireland. One such example of this kind of church is All Saints in Twickenham.

twickenham-all-saintThe combination of the bold English gothic of the Arts & Crafts era and the altar with the Big Six is striking. It works. It is English. It is Anglican, but also implies that yearning for the visible unity of the Church. It is endearing. All the same, I find the lavish Christmas decorations a little over the top.

The Catholic revival in the Church of English and the Roman Catholic Church in France has a common progenitor – Romanticism and the yearning for the “pre-rational”, something that preceded the tired-out Renaissance and hyper-rationalist culture. Some of the Romantic churchmen of England and France had a penchant towards monastic sobriety and profound spirituality through the prayer of the Office. This element persisted in Anglicanism long after it shrivelled away in post-Tridentine Catholicism as the old popular devotions were refined and promoted. The great French theologian Louis Bouyer has understood this fact about the Anglican Office of Mattins and Evensong in our cathedrals and parish churches. It does more to involve the ordinary folk than any number of “management” schemes.

I discuss this element from a point of view that is less enthusiastic about Anglican Papalism (only a tiny proportion of it joined the Ordinariate). I have latched onto the theme of Romanticism and that particular nineteenth-century perspective of medieval aesthetics and spiritual aspiration. This view is not very historical, but somewhat “creative”. After my own experience with extremely high-church (or dare I say “high-camp”) expressions in my old seminary, my taste has moved towards simplicity and sobriety, the spirit of Arts & Crafts, the Pre-Raphaelites and the monastic ethos. Perhaps my experience at Triors Abbey manifested something a little too plain, in the way I was criticised for playing Herbert Howells on the Hill organ I had installed for them when a more “recollected” style might have been more appropriate.

Again, it isn’t about liturgical trappings or merely cultural considerations. It is essential to be well educated, not only to defend the Faith, but to enter into dialogue with the world. Our Anglican vision was always broader and more inclined to follow good principles of fair debate rather than the scholastic way of proving everything and silencing objections. It is very subtle. The next thing is the monastic influence in our love of the Office. Finally, there is the pastoral dimension that I have only seen equalled by French country priests like I have known in Normandy and the Sarthe. The spirit of the great slum priests of London and many northern industrial cities is not dead, and it remains in the Forward in Faith parishes under special episcopal provisions to respect the consciences of those opposed on theological grounds to the attempted ordination of women. Though we in the ACC are critical to such an approach, its existence in the Church of England is little short of a miracle!

I finally come to the latest article on my former Archbishop, who seems to be attempting a comeback. Abp Hepworth At St Mary Of The Angels, January 6, 2017. I anticipate another triumphal article from that source about the Mass he would have celebrated in Hollywood today on the Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany. John Bruce seems to have expressed himself in a fairly matter-of-fact kind of way as far as he perceives it.

Abp Hepworth celebrated Epiphany Day mass at St Mary of the Angels on the evening of January 6, 2017. Several things struck me. One was that this was a genuine pastoral visit — he was not presenting himself as some sort of past Anglo-Catholic celebrity, or perhaps some sort of martyr. He was entirely focused on 2017 and his specific responsibilities as bishop of the parish.

He seems to anticipate criticism from people like me and perhaps others. It was always the narrative of some commentators from about 2010-2011 that Archbishop Hepworth would not make it himself for the reasons of his canonical impediments, but that he would “sacrifice” himself to get everyone, or nearly everyone into the embracing arms of Benedict XVI’s Roman Church. The evidence of the past few days refutes that pious narrative. My question is who made him “bishop of the parish”. Since when did Roman Catholic apologists support independent “rogue” or “uncanonical” churches?

Another is that he is a big man — about the size of President-Elect Trump, maybe six feet two and hardly emaciated. Another similarity is that his mannerisms and timing command respect. I suspect that, like Trump, he’s easily underrated.

This posting is not political, so I will not discuss Mr Trump. I don’t necessarily respect a man because of his physical build but from what I believe to be in his heart and mind, his moral integrity, his having taken responsibility for the events of 2011-2012 (the sex abuse allegations which I am not qualified to discuss).

I was interested in what he’d say in his homily. Again, it was a pastoral exercise, and it was about Epiphany. He focused on several parts of the gospel narrative: Herod’s request of the magi that they tell him where the newborn Christ was located, the massacre of the Holy Innocents, and the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. He made the repeated point that in these times, it’s also become more difficult to be Christian, and it still involves the way of the Cross.

He always did preach and talk persuasively.

Hepworth clearly has a deep understanding and familiarity with scripture and salvation history, which came out in his homily. He’s also focused on the world as it is. Although some visitors here, and other observers elsewhere, have suggested he’s something of a con artist, I got nothing like that from his visit.

Now, who is saying that he is a con artist? I don’t know, but what I do remember of 2011-2012 was that there was a different Ordinariate for every person to whom Archbishop Hepworth sold his plan. His version of his having friends in high places in Rome was not shared by Cardinal Levada. The narrative just did not add up. There were gaping discrepancies, but the man himself had such charm and persuasiveness. I got nothing of the idea of a “con artist” on listening to the Archbishop – only from the cold facts a posteriori. I was devastated like anyone having to be deprogrammed from a cult.

I came away with the impression, like that of other correspondents here, that Hepworth is a complex man, but I would add to it that he’s something of a visionary. He saw a potential in the Portsmouth Petition that simply hasn’t been realized. It reminds me of the sense of potential, if not necessarily optimism, that I get whenever I visit the St Mary’s parish.

“Complex man”? It’s the least one can say! Visionary? He obviously learned a lot about Anglican Papalism in the Diocese of Ballarat where he became and Anglican from being a cradle Roman Catholic. How much did he really assimilate of Anglicanism and the Anglican Patrimony he coined so many times in his talks, addresses and preaching? He showed a tremendous amount of knowledge, but had he really experienced it?

I was present at the Portsmouth College of Bishops meeting in October 2007. We stayed at a very pleasant hotel and were shipped by coach to St Agatha’s church. It certainly was stimulating emotionally and we were told we were participating in something historical. I trusted the Archbishop because nearly all the gathered bishops followed almost in lockstep. I had never seen or experienced such a thing in my life. In 2012 it was all smoke and mirrors, an illusion. Rome did sort something out with the Forward in Faith bishops and let in a number of TAC clergy. John Bruce is quite dissatisfied with the Ordinariates. I have kept away from that world and prefer to be out of it. What was the vision that came unstuck? Now in Hollywood, there is no longer the magic (and unverifiable) number of four hundred thousand faithful and a vast international communion. Paff! Some of the clergy joined the Ordinariates, and the TAC is still there, a shadow of what it was, but now on a par with the ACC and other Continuing Churches. The TAC has moved on and it has a new Primate, Archbishop Shane Janzen in Canada. What is Archbishop Hepworth Archbishop of?

Again, nothing adds up in the way of something John Bruce would approve of, something that would add itself to the Ordinariate movement or become a part of the mainstream.

I return to the subject of this posting. Anglican Patrimony is something that can be identified more easily by the heart and the head. It’s the same for Orthodox folk. Few non-Orthodox can truly fit into the Orthodox Church when they convert, because it involves more than a simple agreement with the Church’s doctrine. It is the same with converts to Roman Catholicism. My own experience was that I could accept the doctrine and teaching, but not the underlying spirit of unquestioning obedience to authority in one’s most intimate being. I was therefore not a good Roman Catholic and did the best thing by reversing my “swim” of 1981. That made me an apostate as far as they are concerned, but for me, it was a partial homecoming after the Roman traditionalists and then the desert of independent bishops.

The idea joins up with the so-called Benedict Option, expression coined by the American writer Rod Dreyer. The future of the western Church is not longer in the old institutions outside the surviving parishes in England and the ones I knew in France (some of them taken over by the Fraternity of St Peter, others closed down) – but in the little communities of folk in those surviving parishes or house communities, or yet the lonely and isolated souls who gather around this blog and others. I have identified the points of hard intellectual work and teaching, monastic spirituality and kindness and nearness to those who approach a priest for whatever reason. These qualities also involve honesty, deep humility, knowledge of self and something very quiet and unassuming. With my experience of life and my probable neurological condition, I have nothing to prove to anyone and no reason to manipulate or change other people to any agenda of mine. That seems to have more of the spirit of Wesley, Keble, Newman or Pusey, the hard-working dons and priests living their quasi-monastic life.

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6 Responses to The Elusive Anglican Patrimony

  1. Ian says:

    I think you have hit a number of nails on the head here Father. One never really escapes one’s upbringing, much as one tries. Like you, I tried during my RC years to be fully RC, and put my Anglicanism behind me. And like you, I could accept all the doctrine and dogma. But there was something else, rather more slippery. An ethos, which was never really mine. I was always a convert.

    Dr Hepworth went the other way. I wonder if he was always, in his heart, a Roman Catholic? I do not know, as I do not know him.

  2. ed pacht says:

    Sometimes we never fit anywhere. I was brought up a Lutheran and retain a lot of the world-view and thinking style I learned there, but, from a child I was never really comfortable with the ethos. I became a distinctly AngloCatholic Episcopalian, but was always a bit of an outsider. I became a Pentecostal preacher, but was always seen as an eccentric. I am now a Continuing Anglican (ACA/TAC) layman, very much at home, but distinctly a misfit. Perhaps that is as it should be. Christians really do not fit in this world and all the churches (no matter how much they try to make it otherwise), being in part human organizations, do tend to conform in large degree to the world system. It tends to make me a bit uncomfortable when people seem fully comfortable, even in the best of churches.

  3. J.D. says:

    You’re right, there’s a very distinct underlying belief in Roman Catholicism that one must have unquestioning obedience to authority. I found I could fairly easily make sense of most of the dogmas of that communion but I could never understand the Roman Catholics deep love of and devotion to the pope, or to their insistence that such thing as ” magisterium” actually exists. I still don’t. There’s rely a deep and abiding devotion to the man and the Office that guys who came in as converts can perhaps never fully understand.

    I find myself more Eastern but I also do not feel at home in the often viciously anti Western Orthodox Church, a communion which has zero love or understanding or willingness to understand almost anything of the Western Patrimony. I’m an Easterner at heart, but I also love the Western Patrimony and do not hold it with suspect and derision the way many Orthodox do.

    Maybe I would have a home in something like the ACC. The closest church in in Jacksonville though, and there’s no way at this point for me to make getting there feasible.

  4. No longer naive says:

    Naively enough, when I joined the Ordinariate I supposed that it would be a home for Anglican patrimony, liturgically and theologically – the opportunity for an exciting revival of stuff like Sarum, and even BCP practices like the use of the 10 commandments in more penitential seasons, regular Morning and Evening Prayer – and also the chance for a new theological and philosophical synthesis incorporating the Romantic influence of Coleridge via Newman & Pusey; putting a fresh historical and doctrinal light on things we weren’t so emotionally attached to… like the papal dogmas etc.


    One thing that it seems has been made absolutely clear: Anglican liturgical eclecticism is not allowed (e.g. silly things like the three-year lectionary and some absurd features of the modern Roman calendar are mandatory). And blanket uniformity – acquiesced in, bizarrely, and defended by those clergy who once made a virtue out of disobedience for the sake of tradition – is in fact sucking the life and spirit out of a movement hated by most of the RC & C of E hierarchy, and crucially starved of the oxygen of Anglo-Catholicism – its buildings. I have had firsthand experience of petty animosity, unmanly evasion, and an instinctive hatred of the free and easy atmosphere we bring with us as ex-Anglicans… from as high up as the episcopal throne, from those who talk the language of openness and tolerance and squelchy love in their patronising sermons. That the nastier members of the RC hierarchy should try to impose on us the same unreasoning and double-minded subservience that they have imbibed themselves, and therefore wish to visit on newbies, is a sad fact of human nature. But that the Ordinariate should assist in destroying its own liturgical ethos is inexplicable to me: they are not winning any friends by so doing.

    For myself, I see no way back into mainstream Anglicanism, or onwards into mainstream RCism, and will probably stay put, for the sake of a decent sermon and probably the best English-language liturgy one could hope for as an RC. I withhold my name partly because I don’t want my fellow-worshippers to think that I am contemptuous of them as I don’t think that is right, and partly because I am still personally grateful for a church life and liturgy that many people in the mainstream greet with a huge sense of relief and escape, watered down as I fear it is. There may be an element of cowardice on my part as well, I hope not… but nemo judex in parte sua…

    Mr Bruce doesn’t think there is such a thing as Anglican patrimony, perhaps because he hasn’t tried to bring it with him tout court into RCism… if he had, he would have discovered, by the opposition he would have faced, some things about this elusive notion. Father, if you had qualified for the Ordinariate through different prior circumstances and ended up joining, you would have been told to stretch yourself over a massive area of Normandy to cover for the lack of priests, and on the first hint that you were doing Sarum or anything remotely outside what had an official stamp of approval from the Vatican, that would have been that. You have taken a shortcut!

    • I left the TAC in early 2013. When Archbishop Hepworth was removed by Archbishop Prakash and the other TAC bishops, I was incardinated into the English Diocese of the TAC. I tendered my resignation announcing my intention to join the ACC, and I received a reply affirming that I was leaving on good terms. Such things are very important for me. I needed the distance both from the “old” TAC, the “new” TAC and the Ordinariates. I have not followed Ordinariate news, and have preferred to refrain from judging it in any way. I believe its intentions were pure, both from the point of view of the bishops-monsignori chosen to lead it and the Pope.

      However, I do read Fr Hunwicke’s blog most days, and his singular and original point of view is appreciated. As I have said in my posting, I understand the underpinning of “Anglo-Papalism” and the support of Fathers like St Ignatius of Antioch. However, I seem to be more culturally in tune with the earlier Tractarian ethos, the plainness and the medievalism, just replacing the 1662 Prayer Book with the Use of Sarum with the Sarum or Monastic Office in English. The Ordinariate was founded on the ethos of Anglican-Papalism and largely excluded “classical Anglicanism” whether with Sarum or the Prayer Book. It is understandable, because trying to replicate “comprehensiveness” would have delayed the Anglicanorum coetibus movement for many years. Archbishop Hepworth’s approach was to tell Rome that “we are Roman Catholics with only a few minor cultural differences”, himself being a Roman Catholic desirous of returning to his Church of origin and being accepted back into the priesthood. In the ACC, we have a fairly Anglican-Papalist style of liturgy and appointment of our churches. My chapel is an exception with its Dearmer-esque layout and fittings. The unity of our Church outweighs small cultural differences which are readily tolerated in this spirit of charity and Christian kindness.

      I respect the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the choices it has made, and I am an outsider. I also appreciate the difficulties of becoming Roman Catholics but at the same time wanting some aloofness from that Church’s mainstream parish life. I don’t envy those priests in the contradictions and difficulties they have to face, including the effect of a “Continuing Church” despite its canonical legitimacy in the Roman Catholic Church. Some priests do help out in mainstream parishes and show a spirit of self-sacrifice. How far can such sacrifice of identity go?

      Personally, I would have felt stifled had I applied to the Ordinariate and been accepted. I would have done me no good and I would have done them no good. I am too odd and eccentric for mainstream Churches. The ACC and I accepted each other on the basis of “What is written on the label is what is in the jar”. I pray for the visible unity of the Church (the Church cannot be divided sacramentally), but things must be on a level playing field – they are not.

      I don’t know Mr Bruce, but I would hate to have him in a parish of which I would have the cure of souls. I don’t know what drives him, whether it is bitterness or seeking validation for his conversion by persuading others to do the same. I went to RCism without Anglican patrimony, by going through the traditionalists, a kind of “do what Newman did”. I shut down when I am stifled. It is the way I am. I often wish I could have been a boat builder or a composer rather than a priest, had I lived a different life. I found a little Church to which I can relate and live out my little life as a priest. No one stifles me, and I respect the fact that what I do is through tolerance rather than entitlement or right.

      Having left the RC Church in about 1998, it would have been dishonest to rejoin it just to be a “kosher” priest whom the faithful in the parishes would accept – but yet be made to conform to everything you mentioned. At one time, I went along with the narrative of Archbishop Hepworth saying that we would all be “amnestied” from our canonical irregularities and “grandfathered” in. No, that was not to happen, and I was and am relieved. Conversion to RCism is not the thing, but work towards preparing all our Churches for visible unity on the mere basis of the doctrine of the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. We can’t have our cake and eat it.

      What do we do? Just the same as the little parish clergy in la France profonde. We get on with our little lives doing what we believe to be right. We accept being of no interest to anyone and living by the inspiration of Blessed Charles de Foucault, the “hard bastard” in the Sahara Desert who did not make one single convert among the local Muslims. He wrote and prayed, and he was elevated to the altars.

      • jimofolym says:

        I think Mr. Bruce has a mild case of ‘convertitis’. Don’t worry, it’s not contageous unless you stand too near! I’ve been there several times, mostly in my youth, and now have immunity. Charles de Foucault is one of my heroes. As is Benedict Labre, who slept in the sewers of Rome.

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