Another response to my brother priest

As promised, since I am well advanced with my translation orders that have to be delivered tomorrow. I have done about 26,000 words in only four days, but with the help of automatic translation – a very good and intuitive programme – which I have only to post-edit to give the human translation the customer is paying for. That’s quite a lot of work, so I’ll get this little one in.

The new article of Fr Jonathan is this:

Currants and Raisins: a response to Fr Chadwick

Like him, I am living quite remotely and risk losing sight of reality with only the material on the Internet to inform me. I can get impressions of people that are probably very wrong because I have never met them. It is a temptation to construct a personality from partial information. Like Fr Jonathan, I don’t want to sound anti-American, because I am not. Human beings live in other countries too, and we all fall short and fall for the temptation of intolerance and being simplistic.

I agree that our conduct on the Internet should not compromise the efforts our Bishops are making to unite our Churches in the spirit of the Congress of St Louis. We do have that responsibility. I have already commented on the limited diversity of liturgical rites used in our Churches, beginning with the widely-used Anglican Missal and English Missal. We are all united in publicly celebrating the liturgy in classical so-called “Cranmerian” English, meaning the formal idiom of the early seventeenth century and thereabouts. What would be clearly heterogenous would be the use of modern English like in the RC Novus Ordo or the various Anglican books published in the 1970’s. In spite of our diversity between the 1928 American book, the Anglican Missal and the Warren translation of the Sarum Missal I use, we all use the Coverdale Psalter, the King James Bible (with Apocrypha) and those prayers translated by Cranmer directly from the Latin Sarum books. Our fidelity to the Prayer Book is seen in these terms rather than the idea of using the truncated explicitly Protestant rite of Holy Communion from the 1662 Prayer Book – which is not in use in our Diocese.

Perhaps these points will be cleared up, hopefully by the Bishops and our canonists legislating according to pre-existing custom, which is the usual way of canon law. But, that is for them, not for us simple priests. This issue of the Prayer Book has been a point of agony and cognitive dissonance for a very long time, through the days of pompous Victorian gentlemen with enormous moustaches boasting their philistine masculinity to the rejected English 1928 Prayer Book project. By the early twentieth century, the choice was that of Percy Dearmer, like what the Fathers of the London Oratory do with the Novus Ordo, becoming Roman Catholic or introducing pre-Reformation or Roman Catholic rites into Anglican parishes. In the Church of England, it made for an indisciplined Church with a parish-based ecclesiology prevailing over diocesan and episcopal theology. We in the ACC, fortunately, don’t have to deal with Protestant and Latitudinarian bishops. Many of us would not have joined the ACC if the Prayer Book were the only rite available, having to be interpreted in a “Percy Dearmer” kind of way: do all the ceremonies in a pre-Reformation way, but don’t deviate from the texts or add to them. For my part, I was honest and up-front when I applied to Bishop Damien Mead and his Board of Ministry – and I was let in!

We are often tempted to see our vocation as “saving the Church” and fighting against heresy. I have come to see things differently, like with the moral issues in our society, even those concerning human life and the integrity of the human genome. As priests, we have no power to change anything in this world. I think Fr Jonathan understands this with his expression of the Benedict Option idea insofar as it can be adapted for our situation. It is deeply discouraging to live in a place where no one is remotely interested in what we offer or teach. Our treasure is their garbage. How can we expect to change their behaviour when what they do would be unacceptable in a Christian context? We can’t beat them and we are not inclined to join them! We are marginalised and living in the catacombs like English people who convert to Buddhism or Hinduism. There comes a time when we become overloaded by the polemics and “identity politics” and all the stuff buzzing around on Facebook.

As priests coming from elsewhere, we find more in common with the ACC than anything else. Our Churches are essentially manifestations of the traditionalist reaction from a notion in the Anglican Communion that would reduce all religion to a civil level and conventional morality based on changing trends and identity politics. Gone would be the spiritual and contemplative dimension, to be replaced by entertainment and social partying. We can’t legislate or police them – but we can try to do better ourselves without getting upset because our way is not contagious!

We live in total indifference and occasional hostility. However, some souls are curious about the paranormal and science, and cannot accept the idea of annihilation at physical death. Instead of seeing such ideas as competitors against Christian monotheistic orthodoxy, we can try to understand some of these approaches. It must be difficult to be a hard-core atheist and live with one’s extremely narrow view of life – because there is the fact of death. Most people know that spending millions to have your brain frozen and one day plugged into a machine is complete rubbish. When the brain is dead, is is dead, gestorben, mort, defuncto, kaputt, you name it. The spirit is still alive, but the hard atheist denies its existence. We have to diversify, widen, without denying anything we believe to be true and wholesome. “Liberal” religion is political. Our is contemplative and concerned with our higher life. I do believe that this is where continuing Anglicanism should be going with our traditional liturgy and contemplative approach to God.

I used to be familiar with the idea of traditionalist Roman Catholics getting all their buildings back. But are pre-Reformation church buildings their property? I think not. Their owners went along with the Reformation, and they belong to the Church of England. I think it would be a mistake to expose our Bishop to the risk of being ridiculed for being claimed to be the (Arch)Bishop of Canterbury. It would be nice for our Bishops to have names of towns for the titles of their sees, but the usual way is describing the territory rather than a single city. Most of our dioceses are named after whole countries or parts of a vast country like the United States. We have the Diocese of the Resurrection and only one diocese named after a single city, New Orleans. The Old Roman Catholics have titles like Caer-Glow and Selsea, unless they adapt styles like we have in the ACC.

One thing we can do if we find ourselves as priests without congregations because no one could care less – is to study and teach, to work in the arts and crafts with the expression ora et labora in our minds. Fr Jonathan is a Benedictine oblate, and this commitment is precious in our midst. I see that he shares my interest in penetrating the mystery of God as far as our limited human reason and experience will allow.

He is in good company. I love playing with words myself, which takes on a whole perspective with my differing degrees of knowledge of other ancient and modern languages.

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2 Responses to Another response to my brother priest

  1. Stephen K says:

    Father Anthony, on reading this post I was tempted to comment on various of your statements. Then I asked myself, why would I do that? Why, for example, should what I think about some of your statements be said? What kind of response would you, Father Anthony, be seeking, if any? Why does everything said have to be commented on? I already don’t comment on heaps. Why this one? Why, indeed, do I take the time to read your posts every day?

    Well, one reason is that I feel some considerable personal empathy with you. For various reasons I find I care about you. Not in any paternalistic way, just human-to-human. You’re not a confrontationalist, not even in the religious areas you feel strongly about, although I perceive what I think or would describe as a Yorkshire robustness about you. I find your at times tentative, at other times enthusiastic, interest in new or, shall I say, non-classical areas of inquiry reassuring and stimulating; I find your persistent devotion/attachment to various traditional forms and constructs unremarkable, i.e.I find it is in keeping with the person I think you are, although of course I am in disagreement with the rationales that are usually relied upon for these.

    I think I share your musical directions; I find your path from the classical Anglicanism of your childhood experiences to your Anglican Catholicism via exotic reactionary continental Catholicism in the 1980-90s considerably more interesting and fascinating than my path from what I would describe as the missionary Erin-Australian Catholicism of my youth through precocious resistance to change to Lefebvrism to a larger-perspective Catholicism to skepticism to modernism then to christian agnosticism, and then, intermittently, to Ted Nottingham.

    But perhaps the only point I would make arises from this: I see that you, Dale, ed, Neil, Jimofolym, I and all the others have traversed different paths. Some of you have come to different places on some things. Some of you have come to the same place – more or less – on other things. So, what matters what I think? Perhaps only that I can see it as the overriding and underlying religious truth that God might profitably not be thought a thing but a journey, and that the vastness of God is found in all our journeys. And then some of you will think that that is not so, and all I can say is, who am I to judge?

    On that note I will end, and conclude I should not comment on your post other than to say I agree the Anglican church property does not belong to the Romans.

    • You are very kind, and I think that the convergence of our thought is showing that this blog has a vocation to put forward a different kind of thought than what we find around us, on TV, in the press, on the internet and every time we have to go into town.

      I go through many inner conflicts, because the temptation is there to follow someone else’s expectations. Advice is cheap, and few of us will put our money where our mouth is. Read about Aspergers Syndrome, and you will understand many things about me. One is that I have a very acute “bullshit detection” meter, and the price of that is being over-sensitive to negative energies coming from other people. Some get freaked out by bright light or loud noises or just crowdy places (which I don’t like). They say that aspies have no empathy. At least in my case I have too much and even feel it over the internet and in different historical time-frames. It isn’t easy for me to be the lone philosopher and contribute to helping other people to think for themselves.

      Yes, something I have noticed on this blog is that a few of us are converging, not to some new trend or conformity thinking, but seeing this need for a vast and all-emcompassing vision that escapes most of us in the herds. I imagine Nietzsche, before he fell ill, climbing the mountains of the Alps and contemplating the Ubermensch, not the man who thinks he is better, but the man who aspires to be better because of his humanity and freedom to think for himself. Just now in winter, I miss my long sea passages in a small boat!

      There are many analogies of God, because he is above the understanding of any of us. I think a lot about the consciousness question, but of course God is above that concept and is everything. Sorry if that sounds like heresy to some!

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