It is the famous quote of Dante, most frequently translated as Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. It is a quotation I often remember when walking up some streets in London with the dark glass and steel office buildings that say nothing of humanity, just money, money and money.
This idea came back into my mind as I read Patrick Sheradon’s new article on Western Orthodoxy. Of course he may be right, as would John Bruce who converted to Roman Catholicism. If you convert to Roman Catholicism, you have no right to anything to which you were attached in the past. You submit and accept everything from the current Papacy and the local bishops. Why not? It all seems to make sense.
I was once interested in the idea of Western Orthodoxy, but I saw the reality before going anywhere near an Orthodox priest. For me, it simply didn’t happen. I saw Dr Ray Winch become ever more cynical and gravitate towards traditional Latin masses in the RC Church, and was buried when he died without any religious rites. I knew him well enough not to see him as an apostate, but someone whose faith and hope was pushed to the extreme.
I suppose it could be said that we Anglicans should use the 1662 Prayer Book or the new services and go along with the latest things coming from General Synod. What becomes of someone who has nowhere to go. That person just dries up, and I’m sure that Christ must be guffawing over the whole thing! Were I not a Christian or a priest, perhaps I would end up like Dr Winch – trust in God’s mercy, but alone. If the Church is where the person must abandon hope when he enters there, surely this is not heaven on earth – – – but the hell of Dante, lined with the skulls of bad bishops and priests.
Anglicanism is far from perfect, but it does allow a certain amount of diversity in questions of liturgy and other preferences in secondary matters. I have been allowed to use Sarum, not because I am some kind of “uniate”, but because I was already using it as a priest and it is an Anglican rite. It was used after the Henrican schism from 1534 and was only abolished in 1549. The rest of my Diocese uses the Anglican Missal, essentially the pre-1962 Roman rite using the Sunday Epistles, Gospels and Collects from the Prayer Book. It is another Anglican rite. A limited diversity doesn’t seem to be a problem for us Anglicans.
Many Orthodox and Roman Catholics will dismiss our Church as “dud” or “bogus” on the basis of their belief that our Sacraments are invalid. The moral of this story is simply to “stay put”, don’t let anyone manipulate us or make us believe that we have to convert to their Church. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mt xxiii. 15).
I would be sad to see my old friend from Kent go the same way as John Bruce on opposite sides of the Tiber or the Volga, or whichever river going through a Patriarchal city. I am delighted to see him find his spiritual home – if it will be in the long term. Perhaps they are right, and we have nothing to hope for. I have a feeling that such zeal may well be short-lived and hides a deep dissatisfaction and inner turmoil.
I think Western Orthodoxy could have worked like the pre-Pauline Roman liturgy in the contemporary RC Church. Perhaps it does work in some places in the USA. I gave up on it thirty years ago. I have seen many empty promises, long waits and secrets being kept – and there was nothing there. Stay with Churches that are in the jar what it says on the label. I am sure there are good and sincere Roman Catholic and Orthodox local communities, but there are good Anglican ones too.