Another Cheap Shot

John Bruce keeps churning them out. They all add up to the same thing: Continuing Anglicanism and the Ordinariates are trash and you have to be a “proper Catholic” (whatever that means nowadays). I usually don’t bother, even though my name comes up occasionally with my archaic ecclesiastical title of Monsieur. Here’s The Root Of The Problem is quite telling:

But let’s revisit the Anglican patrimony here. Anglo-Catholicism has been the effective pretext for Anglicanorum coetibus, with Bl John Henry Newman taken as something of an ur-Anglo Catholic and the patron of some ordinariate communities. But keep in mind that those tractarians who remained in the Church of England were the ones who developed the Anglo-Catholic style, which was distinctly anti-authority.

The use of Catholic vestments in the Church of England was not canonical and after (I believe) 1872 actually illegal, but neither the canonical nor legal provisions could be enforced, since they were so widely violated. The same applied to Roman liturgical forms, most in violation of the XXXIX Articles, which were effectively ignored, with bishops forced to look the other way. The effort to revise the Book of Common Prayer, ultimately unsuccessful, was undertaken to find an enforceable compromise with the Romanizing faction. Same-sex attraction was widely accepted and part of the package, from the 1840s onward.

I thought this kind of rhetoric had more or less died by the late winter of 2012-13. Roman Catholic triumphalism was practically snuffed out overnight with the election of Bergoglio. Many of the trolls who buzzed around my English Catholic blog like demons around St Anthony of the Desert fell silent – and are possibly waiting for Benedict XVII, Pius XIII or Gregory XVII (or should it be Gregory XIX?). The Continuing Anglican blogs mostly died, and I just seem to be keeping mine going because it is my blog – even though I am a priest in an institutional Church under the jurisdiction of a Bishop. Being myself seems to help even if I go through “dry” periods.

Monsieur Bruce seems to seize onto a similar theme I saw under fire in about 2011 in the Continuing Anglican world and Archbishop Hepworth’s wishful interpretation (yes, the famous interpretations of Anglicanorum coetibus). Anglicanism is Protestant, right, and Catholicism is Roman, right? High Church Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism were excroissances that were rightfully repressed in the Victorian era, right? He does hit on a note of Anglican Catholicism being largely based on a defiance against episcopal authority, Tradition over Authority, a kind of “English Gallicanism”. At the same time when English ritualist priests were sent to prison, Rome was demolishing the last shreds of Gallicanism as Pius IX affirmed his feeling of being infallible – La Tradizione son’io.

Mr Bruce strangely forgets to mention the discreet presence of the English style, which in time prevailed in most parish churches, thus displacing the triple-decker pulpits and box pews. The use of a more “Roman” or “counter-reformation” style remained in the minority, and mostly in London and the south coast of England.

This is quite a gob-smack: – Same-sex attraction was widely accepted and part of the package, from the 1840s onward. Homosexuality in England was not a good idea in the Victorian era unless you wanted to wind up in prison – as Oscar Wilde found to his cost. Did he mean the 1940’s, at least once the war was over? Even then, homosexuality was still against the law until 1967, and not welcome in most churches.

I discovered Anglo-Catholicism in London in the 1970’s. The “big spikes” in London were spiritual homes to quite a few “camp” characters. Perhaps these people sought a spiritual home and a way to God in spite of their weaknesses. The liturgy was beautiful and appealed to aesthetes. Is not beauty, like love and truth, an icon of God? In the ACC, we seem to have lost the “camp” dimension, and it has to be said that some of the “queens” in the spikey parishes of London and Brighton were quite shallow in their expression. We have more of the provincial parish ethos in the ACC than of London and the south coast, and it is less flamboyant. We are almost mundane, which suits me fine as a plain northener. One who associates Anglican Catholicism and homosexuality as intrinsically bound together shows bad faith.

Personally, I have allowed myself to be influenced by the English style, Arts & Crafts and French monasticism. I emerged from the world of Gricigliano with indigestion, but it was not for me to say it was wrong! I was intrigued by the Sarum revival movement from the early 1980’s and discovered many fascinating books from the Henry Bradshaw Society and the Alcuin Club, attesting an entire movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Percy Dearmer was one of the champions of this movement, though he limited himself to using the Prayer Book with Sarum style ceremonial and church furnishings. I don’t think those churches were full of camp “lace queens”. It was a more intellectual movement, and hardly survived World War I. Mr Bruce neglects this aspect in his binary thinking and attitude. The movement for the 1928 Prayer Book in England was more “Sarum” than “Roman” in inspiration.

What we have today, in the Forward in Faith parishes and the Continuum, is little more than a shadow of the pre World War I heyday, once there was more tolerance for ritualism and the Prayer Book revision movement took hold. We do what we can. I do believe that some priests in the Ordinariates are doing fine work, their utmost for the beauty of the liturgy and an inculturated spirituality. English people are as ethnical as any other people in their parts of the world, and we have our culture that asks to be evangelised and filled with the grace of the Christian Gospel.

John Bruce is still on with his business analogies and the viable Church, whilst Christ’s movement with the twelve Apostles, one a traitor, was in such terms a non-starter. He is a classicist in the manner of the old rationalism from the Georgian era. Perhaps he would have been happy with three-hour sermons whilst the organist* went fishing! Like Voltaire, I respect a man for expressing his opinion, but no opinion (including mine) can go unchallenged.

* I allude to the example of Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876), organist of Hereford Cathedral, according to anecdotes related by organ teachers…

* * *

I won’t go on with a running commentary on all this fellow’s articles, but the one for today makes me wonder what the cat dragged in… I know what conditions can be like for parish priests living in the midst of indifference and hostility. Perhaps priests should be trained like soldiers so that they have the will and impassibility of the Waffen SS, or the notion of the parish needs to be revised and made more intimate and human.

Priests often don’t come up to expectations. We are all human. Some priests have personal issues that can mar their aptitude for ministry. They can either be “eliminated” or imaginative uses can be made of them in chaplaincies, teaching and all sorts of things. We change over the years, and experience can bring us bitterness or wisdom – or both. Who would benefit by our giving up? It would certainly not be God or Christ! The expectations of some laity on priests reinforce the old clericalism, and this is a travesty. I have the impression that most people going to church do so for reasons that are incomprehensible. The death of “cultural Christianity” and the “business model” might be an opportunity for a new beginning. Who knows?

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4 Responses to Another Cheap Shot

  1. ed pacht says:

    Mr.Bruce does not merit the attention he drums up for himself. He represents a type that has always existed, but manifests far more easily in this internet era. It doesn’t matter what issues they claim to be defending or destroying. These people are all the same – it is the anger, the denunciations, and the air of infallible superiority that they insist on expressing, not building anything, but always tearing down. To have strong opinions and to defend them is not a bad thing in itself, but can be very admirable, but this kind of ranting accomplishes nothing and often produces very real hurt. The best answer to such as this (I need to listen to myself here) is to ignore them entirely and deny them the notoriety they seek. When we react to them, we only fan the flames and feed their self-righteousness.

    • He could also be challenged to live in North Korea, or simply in most parts of France where the churches are empty, rotting and locked – and no one cares. He wouldn’t even find good old-fashioned anti-clericalism.

      As I have mentioned about Mr Bruce, I don’t care about his opinion. As Voltaire said, I would defend his right to his opinion, but he would not be absolved from it being challenged. I take these opinions, rants, whatever – as something to provoke discussion and thought. Otherwise our world becomes complacent, parochial and uninteresting. We do need to think about some of these points like churches having to be viable in business terms when it is all about something much more than money and material things.

      I remember Speaker’s Corner in London in the early 1980’s (probably the same now) when people would air their religious and political opinions which they would have to defend in respect of hecklers. Having to defend something is not a bad thing. It makes us more critical and makes us think.

      By the way, another mangled mouse today…

  2. jimofolym says:

    John Bruce is a gossipy old twipp who is trying to ingratiate himself with the current RC establishment. I only look at his blog to find out what happens to St. Mary of theAngels, El Ay where I and my children were baptized.

    • ed pacht says:

      Unfortunately Bruce is not a reliable source as to what is really happening there. On such a contentious environment with no dispassionate witnesses, there probably is no reliable source.

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