Another Couple of Hissy Fits

Perhaps he thought I had been beaten into submission – but I’m back! He has recently written Latin Mass Again and More From Guelzo On Anglo-Catholicism. Our friend has got steam up again and is ready to pummel us anti-technology romantics into the Dark Ages!

I lived through some of the more “creative” years of the RC traditionalist movement, beginning with Fr Black’s little empire in England and then in France. Though I stayed with it for fifteen years, I saw the cracks almost from the beginning. One particularly nasty experience was the Catholic Evidence Guild who had training sessions each week at Westminster Cathedral. Upon learning that I was going to SSPX Masses a grubby old man told me that “obedience is part of Tradition“. This meant that whatever came from his magisterium was Tradition, and that there was no other source of tradition. Authority has the power to change truth itself – look no further for the archetype of Orwell’s Big Brother! This dystopian church was beginning to depress me – and I thought I would find better in France… The reforms and the altars facing the people extended to the uttermost ends of the earth, to the least country church. What was I looking for, the clerical Big Brother of John Paul II’s curia? The traditional Catholic liturgy? What?

I once tried to follow the Michael Davies line and compare the post Vatican II iconoclasm with that of the English Reformation. Superficially, there are parallels, but the fond (as opposed to la forme) is so different. Few know about the attempts at rationalist liturgical reform in the eighteenth century, especially the pseudo-Synod of Pistoia (1786) and the Jansenist influence. By far, the most scathing criticism of this movement came from Dom Guéranger.

I remember, during my seminary days, discussing the idea of diversity with priests like Fr François Crausaz (1958 – 1994). It seemed to be the quest for peace from men like Cardinal Ratzinger who advocated the coexistence of the old and modern Roman rites. Why not? After all no two churches celebrated the modern rite in the same way. John Bruce’s visitor evokes the hypocritical stance of traditionalists asking for freedom whilst aspiring to a future theocracy where they would bring back the fires of the Inquisition and the thumbscrews. I noticed this when we got the Indult of 1984 and the concessions offered after the consecration of four bishops by Archbishop Lefebvre (I was up at Fribourg at the time and attended the ceremony). I went along with wanting to have the best of both worlds: being in the mainstream Church and doing so as if we were in some past time. At Gricigliano, we were in the eighteenth century except with electricity, hot water and modern medicine and transport! It was fun, but I couldn’t make that the purpose of my life.

The traditionalist world, as for all of us is full of dilemmas and paradoxes. Psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. The rub is that atheism and materialism are too. We won’t find truth or the object of our yearning in this world, not even in the Anglican Catholic Church! Going over to the magisterium conservative camp won’t solve anything either, unless religion is simply a civic duty like Anglicanism in Georgian times.

There have been some parallels drawn between the Ecclesia Dei traditionalists and the Ordinariates. The comparison has been most energetically refused by the various prelates of the American and English Ordinariates. There our friend does have a point, except that most of the Anglican Patrimony evoked is nineteenth-century Anglo-Papalism, not the Sarum / Dearmer / English style, let alone pre-Tractarian norms (three-decker pulpits, box pews and organists going fishing during the sermon). The lesson that needs to be learned here is that, certainly, we need a sense of cultural identity – but first of all we need to revise and overhaul our reasons for being Christians. Well, I certainly couldn’t go along with the particular fundamentalism of the grubby old man in Westminster. My attachment to the Church of England was gone. There were no continuing Churches, just a few odd independent bishops who represented nothing. Unfortunately, France is also a part of this world and not the Platonic World of Ideas.

In his second article, he returns to old Guelzo, surprised that he was an Evangelical. Guelzo seems to be afraid of the opposition to the railways in Anglo-Catholicism in favour of his rationalism.

Anglo-Catholicism sought to escape secularism by eluding, rather than affirming, the trammels of reason.

What an interesting idea, at the very heart of the clash between Idealism and Realism, between materialist rationalism and the Romantic reaction to the blood flowing from the guillotine! Reason is important, but can only inform the knower to an extent. The imagination is also a rational faculty but which goes beyond empirical evidence.

What is this stuff about Anglo-Catholicism being Imperial? Are we blowing Sepoys from cannon like back in 1857 in India? British officers of those days were unlikely to be Anglo-Catholics. If those philistines were religious at all, they would be plain Church of England. I see no connection between Anglo-Catholicism and the grandiose imperial expansion of the Victorian era, any more than fearing the expansion of technology – and railways.

Anglo-Catholic language is recognized for what it was, an active and conscious repudiation of the theological rationalism so beloved of the Evangelicals, in favor of a dialect based on religious sentiment.

From where did the cat drag this one in? John Bruce goes on to admit there there are holes in Guelzo, and that Roman Catholic apologists (yes, the grubby man in Westminster) were more rationalist, basing their arguments on St Thomas Aquinas and later neo-scholasticism. I have been through it all, and neo-Platonism and Ressourcement were like a breath of fresh air after all the “our way or the highway” of the apologists. I came across plenty of grubby old trolls when I was running my old English Catholic blog in 2011-12.

And — well — every time I visit Fr Hunwicke’s blog, I seem to hear faint strains of “Rule Britannia”.

Oh well, Stiff upper lip, Jeeves! If John Bruce really wants to get me going, here are a couple to choose from:

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5 Responses to Another Couple of Hissy Fits

  1. RSC+ says:

    The original article was a bizarre read. Newman, Manning, Pusey, Grafton, Hall, Mortimer, Mascal, Farrer — none of these sound like the bogeyman presented by Mr. Bruce.

  2. chriscontramundum says:

    Father Chadwick,

    In context, I’m pretty sure Guelzo’s comment about Anglo-catholic imperialism was a reference to Ritualist clergy “advancing” the churchmanship of unsuspecting Evangelical parishes. When challenged, his thinking goes, AC clergy responded with florid defenses of liturgical arcana. Thus, they avoided admitting that they were intellectually dishonest.

    Mr. Bruce’s commentary is a digression about the structure of Guelzo’s argument (AC obscurantism vs. Evangelical rationality) and a remark about wealthy ACs. He might not talk that way if he worshiped in an AC storefront parish that gave up a Gothic church with an endowment. There are lots of them now.

    Guelzo’s best work is about US President Abraham Lincoln’s religious cast of mind. Lincoln was raised a Hard-shell Baptist, and his thought strongly bore the mark of predestination even though he was a Deist for much of his life. Guelzo loves this period of Protestant thought. It edifies him.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Barging in a bit, I thank you for this comment for various of its details (not least, re. Lincoln’s life and thought: e.g., Our American Cousin on Good Friday has long astonished me, without ever ‘doing my homework’ properly, though I’ve helped with a production of – and reviewed for the Lincoln Herald – Deirdre Barber’s excellent Booth play, Tell Mother I Died for my Country)!

      I know too little about ‘Anglican’ history in North America, the UK since the Restoration, or elsewhere in the world.

      I suppose Trollope’s Barchester books give an imaginary example of something like the opposite of what you describe as Guelzo’s thinking about “Ritualist clergy ‘advancing’ the churchmanship of unsuspecting Evangelical parishes”, though with reference to a Diocese – some sort of ‘Evangelicalizing’ of somewhere hitherto ‘otherwise Anglican’ – which I further suppose must have had a plausibility to its original readership (1855-67). Has this been a sort of ‘world war’ within the Anglican Communion since the Oxford Movement, with innumerable little local-to-diocesan-level battles, back and forth?

  3. Andrew says:

    Dear Fr. C,

    I just wanted to say that I appreciate your blog, and your approach to these topics. I follow the discussions to some extent, and it is easy to become discouraged by the ignorance and meanspirited nature of men. A little bit of kindness and sympathy does wonders. These are spiritual gifts.

  4. chriscontramundum says:

    You’re welcome. Trollope has indeed happened worldwide within Anglicanism. In the US, Texas and the Great Lakes region are notably AC, and the South notably Evangelical.

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