Update: On reading various comments on this page, I find that many aspects no longer correspond with my present reality. I wrote it at a time when the TAC was on its last legs, at least in the way things were understood at its October 2007 College of Bishops meeting in Portsmouth. I was going through a fairly despondent period and I had not yet joined the Anglican Catholic Church.
Even though I have joined the Anglican Catholic Church and adhere to its defining doctrinal positions, I remain quite independent in my thinking and “eccentricities”. The tone of this blog has become quieter than the old English Catholic I used to run together with a Canadian lady who has joined the Ordinariate. Most Christians belong to an institutional Church of sorts, but yet remain autonomous persons with their own thought and self-expression. I am no exception.
The monastic ideal always appealed to me, but not the reality of monasteries – which are usually an extension of corporate Christianity. Water is wet. We certainly need to proceed from the interior to the exterior. That doesn’t sound very practical! I joined a Church because I felt a sense of duty in regard to the gift of the Catholic priesthood I had received. Who would benefit by my forsaking it? I was by 2012 totally through with the world of self-styled churches consisting entirely of bishops and websites!
I came up with this idea of New Goliards, something that would not be very practical either in our time. If we are going to be somewhat against the grain, we don’t do so by trying to appear “establishment” or “mainstream”. Perhaps I had a certain kind of bohemianism in my mind and a desire to interpret the Christian ideal another way through my thoughts and experience of life, through ideas that I have found attractive and inspiring. My aspirations and thoughts go far beyond my actual life, which is another issue.
I thought of New Goliards at one time almost as a kind of invisible association, which is somewhat illusory, because no one else goes around using this term saying that he identifies with it. I never wanted to be a leader or a guru, so therefore I simply share ideas with those who have their own ideas and with whom discussion might be possible. I have abandoned any desire for anything organised other than the Church I joined in April 2013.
Discussion on the internet becomes increasingly difficult because words mean different things to different people. The validity of language and communication is increasingly in question as our culture evaporates with increasing speed. It is better for each of us to work alone and share ideas to which other might relate or decide to reject. We arrive at the famous paradox of tolerance. If the “enemies of tolerance” cannot be tolerated, then the notion of tolerance becomes nonsense, so the whole cycle has to begin anew.
I am less optimistic about human nature than I used to be. Without going to the extreme of Calvin’s “total depravity”, I am too conscious of a sense of alienation except with the select few I feel I can trust. I had the idea of some kind of forum for people like former TAC priests, but they have either stayed put if their community was still viable, or found other solutions within the realms of possibility. I was not indispensable or even useful. Perhaps the modern Goliard is someone who is useless!
I considered taking down the old page and replacing it with something new, until I saw that it was my “foundational narrative”, the origin of this blog. Deleting the old page would be an act of “revisionism”, so it is still here. It has less meaning or relevance now, but it shows my development of ideas. Fundamentally, we need churches and communities, some authority to which we can refer. We also need to be ourselves in ways that do not contradict but complete our ecclesial commitment.
* * *
Like casting off a boat from its moorings, I launch this blog out into a new initiative, that of fostering a spiritual communion of clergy and lay people committed to a life of prayer and a vision that goes beyond the institutional churches and “public” Christianity.
This is entirely my initiative and not one of the ecclesial body with which I am still linked as a priest under the jurisdiction of a vicar general and a bishop. I have thought up many ideas of “doing church” and none has worked. I have no ambition of founding any kind of independent church even though many such communities inspire admiration and respect. If “public” churches are the only way, a whole dimension of Christian spirituality is lost. There are monasteries, but they are designed for a community living in a physical place under the authority of an abbot. Monasticism is the future of Christianity, but it represents a very particular type of commitment and vocation.
Many of us are inspired by the monastic vision, but do not have the monastic calling. Something in us is missing, and the ideal remains beyond reach. Call it a lack of calling, a lack of vocation. The vocation itself and the institution of monasticism are not to be blamed. Many of us have been unable to live to the ideal required by the Churches, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox. Something within ourselves put the brakes on and said to us that we could not continue in that way. The usual alternative is to be a layman. That vocation also implies a type of personality that is powerful and outgoing, capable of building up a large family and assuming the means needed to support that family. That means a high-powered and well paid professional occupation, which is decided for most people in their early 20’s. The lay vocation is not simply the person who is neither a cleric or in a monastic commitment. It is specific and positive, and not a default state for those considered as unsuitable to be clerics.
The usual reaction of someone in my kind of situation is to “invent” a church. It is easy to fantasise about setting up a diocese or a province and becoming its self-styled archbishop or patriarch, self-styled even if one has obtained an ordination which is sacramentally valid according to “Augustinian” theology. Any kind of community has a mission and a purpose, without which it is merely an attempt to justify a wantonly irregular ordination of someone who was unable to “get” it in the official Church. The first thing we have to do is stop justifying ourselves or proving a point to an indifferent world. We are noted in the world, not for our desires, but for our achievements and contribution to man’s well-being.
Therefore, the mission of New Goliards would be fairly near the monastic ideal, but without monastic externals. What matters is within. It is a notion of an inner church, with an invisible mystical and contemplative life in the midst of this world or in deserted parts of the world such as the desert, the mountains or the sea. The notion of exercising the priesthood is given new meaning as for a priest-monk saying his Mass at a side altar each morning as part of his monastic life.
New Goliards, which is not a self-styled church or the same concept wrapped up in different words, is addressed to people for whom ecclesial life emphasises what Nicholas Berbyaev called the aristocracy of the spirit, creativeness and free expression. We are not left untouched by a certain moderate “gnosticism” as expressed by Fathers of the Church like Origen, Clement of Alexandria and some of the Greek and Cappadocian Fathers. This fundamental notion of the human spirit features in the psychoanalytic theories of Carl Gustav Jung. Knowledge of God and knowledge of self are inseparable, and a good Christian has self-esteem. This knowledge naturally goes far beyond the stuff we learn at university or in seminary – it is the reflection of experience.
New Goliards is not an association or a corporation of any kind. It has no money or property. It cannot accept clergy or students for the purpose of emigration from their country of origin in which they suffer from material hardship and immigration into another country. Similarly, 419 scam messages will be ignored and deleted. Not being a “public” church, New Goliards does not have the worries attached to ownership and official institutional concerns.
There are some principles to which I adhere, and on which I should insist for there to be some unity in this spiritual community:
- The fundamental doctrines we would profess in common would be those of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches without stalling on particular details and systems of theological speculation. Whilst we would have every admiration and respect for Christians of the Reformation, it is impossible to live a meaningful Christian life in the midst of interminable squabbles over doctrine or difficulties of semantics.
- Diversity of liturgical rites for the Eucharist, the Hours of prayer and the Sacraments. Something that should be insisted upon would be the use of liturgical forms from the history of the Church using material that is sufficiently extant to avoid having to invent new rites. Normally a priest would adopt a rite that reflects his ethnical and spiritual identity.
- Love of nature and the outdoor life in the desert, on the sea, in the mountains or forests – using means of locomotion and sustenance of life suited to the age and physical condition of the person. This communion with nature brings mental balance and opens us to experience of the divine.
- Love of art, creation and beauty through family life, music, theatre and cinema, writing, teaching, gardening, practical work around the house, inventing new technologies, practicing the healing arts and all avenues of human industry. The imagination needs to be channelled so that we trade with our world as well as with the “world of ideas”.
- A genuine effort to understand our own personalities and work on self-knowledge, whether through individual work or with the help of a psychotherapist basing his methods on recognition and respect of the human spirit.
These are just a few suggestions for helping us to find balance in a world where the Church has gone haywire and there is no place for us anywhere, because of an “all-or-nothing” policy of bishops and clergy selection panels.
The use of the word Goliard would suggest lack of discipline or respect for rules. Radical freedom is more demanding on us existentially than living under something that takes away our personality and demands us to conform and fit into a matrix. Freedom brings responsibility, and requires asceticism and “costly grace” in the words of Bonhöffer. This would be a group of those of us who have been the hardest hit and wounded by a system that would grant us only annihilation at our stage of life. If we want to survive and live on, it is our decision that no one can take in our place.
Initially, the ordination of new priests would not be envisaged, but New Goliards would essentially be geared to fellowship between priests from various churches – laicised Roman clergy, Anglicans and Old Catholics alienated by excessive progressivism and “authoritarianism of the left” and men in unique circumstances not fitting any common plan or mechanism. What about a priest who has abused children? The situation has yet to occur, but New Goliards would not give any kind of active ministry to any priest, whether he is one who has done something very evil or who has never done anything particularly bad in his life.
We may speak of an “inner church tradition”, which has always existed more or less in opposition to the churches of the “masses”. It is strongly represented by monasticism, but not exclusively, for the monastery is also a reflection of the “public” church. Coming to more practical matters, New Goliards would allow the priest in the most wretched circumstances to value his vocation and fulfil a ministry of intercession and the Sacrifice of the Mass in a legitimate medieval Catholic conception of the priesthood and the Mass. No priest with a fundamentally right intention need contemplate giving up and living according to a secular paradigm he would never be capable of making his own. Many of us live on our own or with spouses with little or no understanding of male spirituality or the “inner tradition”, and our loneliness needs to be sublimated into contemplative and creative solitude.
We should take inspiration from the historical monastic orders and rules, particularly that of Saint Benedict as reflecting a spirit of moderation and common sense, for Qui veut faire l’ange fait la bête in the words of Pascal. If we find a balance in our own separate lives, in our correspondence and prayer for each other, we will find that we are both radical and traditionalist.
Finally, our means of communication should be both simple and private. Therefore, I exclude the use of Facebook in favour of old-fashioned e-mails (my address is anthony dot chadwick at wanadoo dot fr), which allows sending “to all”, and Skype for voice communication. I have designed New Goliards to be completely intangible to those looking for institutions or anything that can procure earthly benefits. The only possible motivation for membership is interior. I don’t care about the “effect on credibility” of a bad egg – they will move on when there is no power or money to be had. There is no need for a superior, though I dare say the New Goliards may one day need a bishop. We will see, if that is possible without starting up a whole new vicious circle.
Indeed, radical freedom brings radical commitment and a true desire for good, beauty and the divine.
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This is the first time I’ve really pondered this whole New Goliards idea as you set it forth here Father, but it’s really pretty awesome. Of course I’m not a priest and have little desire for priesthood, but the ideas you set out seem to be applicable to us laymen as well. The notion of ” inner Church” is something I identify with.
For a long time now I have this idea that many of these issues about the Church are more akin to a Zen Koan than a syllogism or some dried up series of proof texts from a theology manual. You only really get those ” aha” moments when you stop wrestling so much with things and just pray and enter into the Mystery.
For me, it’s just the experience of life. Only today, I saw an argument on Facebook from traditionalists about “no salvation outside the Church” and how Pope Francis was a heretic for saying that people should follow their religious traditions and get on together. I didn’t bother. I was tempted to say that they were making Christianity a load of bollocks for sick minds like Prof. Dawkins would say – but I am a believer. We have to disengage, let go and be ourselves.
The Church is above all a Sacrament of Christ over and above the Seven Sacraments. Every religion (Islam too with Sufism) has its spiritual tendencies, and that seems to be what makes it all worth while. Political religion is Daesh or the Puritans or Latino Americano dictators who love having people tortured and shot by firing squads.
Bring love and beauty into life and everything else will look after itself.
Bring love and beauty into life and everything else will look after itself.
Truer words perhaps never spoken! Well, at least I applaud and endorse the sentiment!
I like what I read. Ministry, priestly service is what you make of it. Its about SERVICE, in word and sacrament. In being faithful, available to all. I have always believed that all orders are valid if sincerely entered into – my own opinion. Humility, obedience to the sacrificial lifestyle – offering daily office and mass. I believe its important to be part of the received tradition – Anglican, Orthodox or Catholic. Perhaps a mix of all three. And then its not so much about doctrinal positions, and more about relationships, first with God through liturgy and prayer, and each other in loving support. Some thoughts, I hope they resonate.
Fr Nathan Williams, Nordic Catholic Church
Oratory of S John Chrysostom, Bournemouth.
Yes, your thoughts do resonate with me. It would be wonderful (since you are in England) if you contacted our Bishop either through our Diocesan contact page or via the e-mail address I’ll send you privately. There is an extremely encouraging movement of dialogue and convergence of our Churches, and the recent Synod in the USA was only a part of it.
I should point out that I wrote this page before I joined the ACC, but my ideas don’t seem to have changed! I now use Facebook, but sparingly and carefully.
From what I gather, following the encouraging developments in the States, the NCC has been in touch. You are welcome to contact me via email email@example.com
… the mission of New Goliards would be fairly near the monastic ideal, but without monastic externals. What matters is within. It is a notion of an inner church, with an invisible mystical and contemplative life
I think this gets to the root of the matter.
… The fundamental doctrines we would profess in common would be those of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches without stalling on particular details and systems of theological speculation.
I think we shouldn’t stall, certainly, but I don’t see why community of doctrine with two Churches which don’t tolerate divergence on particular details and systems of theological speculation would be helpful, besides being somewhat contradictory.
Whilst we would have every admiration and respect for Christians of the Reformation, it is impossible to live a meaningful Christian life in the midst of interminable squabbles over doctrine or difficulties of semantics.
I agree with the latter clause but it sits uneasily with the implication in the first clause that there is something disagreeable with “Christians of the Reformation”. The way I see it, if New Goliards is not about the unconditional love of the Gospel, then it isn’t what it is supposed to be, or am I missing something?
Diversity of liturgical rites for the Eucharist, the Hours of prayer and the Sacraments. Something that should be insisted upon would be the use of liturgical forms from the history of the Church using material that is sufficiently extant to avoid having to invent new rites.
This isn’t in itself objectionable but it could undermine the laudable Normally a priest would adopt a rite that reflects his ethnical and spiritual identity
Love of nature and the outdoor life in the desert, on the sea, in the mountains or forests – using means of locomotion and sustenance of life suited to the age and physical condition of the person. This communion with nature brings mental balance and opens us to experience of the divine.
Love of art, creation and beauty through family life, music, theatre and cinema, writing, teaching, gardening, practical work around the house, inventing new technologies, practicing the healing arts and all avenues of human industry. The imagination needs to be channelled so that we trade with our world as well as with the “world of ideas”.
A genuine effort to understand our own personalities and work on self-knowledge, whether through individual work or with the help of a psychotherapist basing his methods on recognition and respect of the human spirit.
Amen to all three!
There is no need for a superior, though I dare say the New Goliards may one day need a bishop. We will see, if that is possible without starting up a whole new vicious circle.
Warning bells! I agree with the caution. One of the problems with all churches of the organised variety, rather than the internal, interior, intentional spiritual, is that overseers exist on power and power corrupts and Truth and Love cease to be paths and journeys and become commodities of control. I think the money is on the probability of a “whole new vicious circle”. We have to rediscover love of God not of intermediaries.
Thanks for these observations. The article was written before I joined the ACC – so needs updating.
I should probably reread Helen Waddell, and find out what new scholarship is accessible and seems good, but l like the idea of exploring senses of ‘Goliardy’ as descriptive – e.g., ‘Goliardy’ and mendicant (and even some ‘military’) orders in Latin Christianity and the starets and wise fools in Eastern Christianity and eremiticism and missionary activity in both, and in their ‘descendants’ (where sixteenth-century ‘Reformation(s)’ and their further histories are concerned, but also, e.g, Old Believers and Dukhobors in the East).