Saturday, 13 June 2009

The task facing us?

A comment on a previous post suggested that the “solution” (my word, not his) to the problems of Anglo-Catholics – “the closest thing possible to the corporate reunion once hoped for by ACs,” is "a network of R.C. national parishes,"
(I assume) as an extension of the Anglican Use Pastoral Provision operating in the U.S.A.
See here and here
Obviously, detailed speculation of this kind is simply that – speculation and no more. In fact, too much speculation could be counter-productive; there are those in various quarters who would be viscerally opposed to any such thing and will do their best to scupper the idea almost as soon as it is floated. So, no more of that.
However, I think we do have to make the point that the project before us has nothing to do with preserving Anglican Catholic clerical job security, but everything to do with helping to lay the foundations of the kind of realignment of western Christianity for which many, both Anglicans and Roman Catholics have hoped and prayed for so long. Individual conversions, however seriously undertaken, however high profile they may be, will never achieve this by themselves. While the Anglican Communion could be regarded as a serious ecumenical partner of both Rome and the East, it made sense for Anglo-Catholics to remain where they were and work towards unity from within. I don’t think anyone now has any realistic expectation, on the present evidence at least, that corporate reunion between Rome and Canterbury remains a possibility, this side of the next millennium. Innovation has become the driving force within contemporary Anglican theology, and we underestimate the huge cultural change that has taken place within Anglicanism (particularly in the British Isles and North America) at our peril. After the present generation, because of this cultural shift, the opportunity to repatriate within the Universal Church Anglicanism’s core ethos will have passed. John Henry Newman recognised very clearly that the Established Church of England, although at that time "a breakwater against Unitarianism, fanaticism, and infidelity,” could very easily under the influence of relativism be transformed into something approaching an enemy of Catholic truth, not so much a breakwater, one might say, as a fifth column.
Essentially, the “Forward in Faith position” is that Newman’s prediction has come true and that the official structures of Anglicanism are no longer capable of committing to anything other than a radical revision of the faith in accordance with the demands of 21st Century culture. Ecumenism, as we have known it, is not so much enduring a particularly hard and deep-frozen winter, but dead.
We are now looking to advance the “Catholic Moment” or a decisive step in the direction of the “Conversion of England,” of which Cardinal Hume spoke in the early 1990s to a great deal of criticism from those who were afraid of the possible consequences and had a considerable vested interest in preserving the status quo, as well as those who completely failed to understand the seismic shift that had taken place both within Anglicanism itself and, as a result, in its ecumenical relationships.
The task we have set ourselves is nothing less than the repatriation, the bringing home, of those aspects of traditional Anglicanism, (patristic / historical / theological method and liturgical language and practice which go to make up that somewhat hard to define “Anglican ethos,”) which are compatible with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is an altogether more complex and more grave theological undertaking than a series of individual conversions, and one which in the present climate carries no small risk and does not involve, as some seem to think, an evasion of the call to take up our cross and follow Christ. Our concern is not so much for ourselves as for our children and grandchildren and the evangelisation of the culture itself, which desperately needs to be interrogated by the values of the Gospel.
But the future is not in our hands; if it is God’s will that this part of His vineyard should be transplanted and continue to bear fruit, then He will find a way.

Friday, 12 June 2009

A note about popular culture

Following on from yesterday’s no doubt insufferably elitist post (although it was pretty democratic to have been at the gym in the first place,) here are some words from a professional theologian and, by all accounts, a considerably talented amateur musician, on the subject of music in general, and of music in the service of the Church in particular:
‘Mass culture is thus geared to quantity, production, and success. It is a culture of the measurable and the marketable. Pop music joins up with this culture. As described by Calvin M. Johansson, it is the reflection of what this society is, the musical embodiment of kitsch……
Popular in the sense of pop music turns into something for which there is demand. Pop music is manufactured in industrial mass production like technical goods, in a totally inhuman and dictatorial system, as Paul Hindemith says. For melody, harmony, orchestration, and the like, there are specialists at one’s disposal who assemble the whole thing according to the laws of the market. Adorno commented: “The fundamental characteristic of popular music is standardisation.” And Artur Korb, whose book How to Write Songs That Sell is already a telltale sign, quite candidly makes the point: popular music “is written and produced primarily to make money.”
For this reason one has to offer something that does not anger or make profound demands on anyone according to the motto: Give me what I want now – no costs, no work, no effort. Paul Hindemith therefore used the term brainwashing for the constant presence of this kind of noise, which can hardly be called music any more. Johansson adds that it gradually makes us incapable of listening attentively, of hearing; “we become musically comatose.”
We still have to show in detail that this fundamental approach is incompatible with the culture of the Gospels, which seek to take us out of the dictatorship of money, of making, of mediocrity, and bring us to the discipline of truth, which is precisely what pop music eschews. Is it a pastoral success when we are capable of following the trend of mass culture and thus share the blame for its making people immature or irresponsible? The medium of communication and the communicated message must stand in a meaningful relationship to each other. As Johansson once again notes, this medium “kills the message.” Trivialising faith is not a new inculturation, but a denial of its culture and prostitution with the nonculture.’

from A New Song for the Lord, Pope Benedict XVI

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Getting old?

A (much needed) trip to the gym at lunchtime left me in agony. Not physically, you understand, but because of an hour of having to listen to non-stop pop music. It goes with the territory. Now on the treadmill the beat is very useful when running, but the lyrics are all - without exception - concerned with various aspects of "Lurve," with a capital 'L.' Is there nothing else in the whole gamut of human experience to sing about other than dating, one wonders? Given that this is the only musical experience enjoyed by the majority of our fellow citizens, is it any wonder that our society seems trapped in a kind of perpetual adolescence, from cabinet ministers down?
For me, I'm afraid, now quite obviously an ageing and irascible fogey, an hour of this kind of torture is worse than waterboarding! Perhaps now is the time to invest in an i-pod with Mozart playing over the headphones.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Two integrities?

A somewhat incoherent post follows. I apologise for it in advance, a very rambling work in progress
There has been quite a lot of comment on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of the “two integrities” within modern Anglicanism. In fact, two integrities could be regarded as a somewhat conservative estimate as our ecclesial community (no, I won’t use the word “Church” in this context) is as divided today as ever it has been in its separate history. In Wales, talk of the two integrities (one which ordains women and one which does not; or, better, one which holds to traditional catholic order and one which has done something new)has been somewhat muted, even some of our own brethren preferring to use that rather unfortunate word “constituency,” colluding with the diocesan bishops’ view – clearly stated in their September Statement - that those who uphold Catholic order are a mere interest group among many. Although as things stand now within our Province we are not even that.
No, my argument with the concept is twofold. Firstly, it plays into the hands of those who believe that orthodoxy and whatever we are allowed to call its opposite these days can be held together in a kind of quasi-Hegelian tension. The problem with that is that the resulting synthesis will inevitably be something other than orthodoxy, and just the most recent confirmation, if one were still needed, of Anglicanism as the ecclesiastical chimera many over the centuries have believed it to be. If there is a definitive Anglican heresy this is it: the glib acceptance of the coexistence of opposites, not engaged in constructive dialogue but trapped in mutual incomprehension!
And secondly, that the use of the term “two integrities” is yet another verbal obfustication to hide the uncomfortable truth that “official” Anglican polity in many parts of the Communion now has no place within it for Catholic Order or Catholic theology. We speak sometimes of being the “original” integrity, yet it is one which is at present barely tolerated by the majority and will soon be “tolerated” to extinction, rather like the North American Indians (sorry, native Americans) who were the original racial integrity on that continent, but as a result of expansionism and the resulting ethnic cleansing (before anyone takes me to task, I know it was a little more complicated than that!) were ultimately forced into a position of dependence and degradation on the reservations. We have so far avoided the degradation, the uphill task ahead of us is to rid ourselves politically and theologically of our dependence upon those who are our natural antagonists.
Fr Steel in his recent very moving testimony chronicling his journey of faith quotes Bishop John Hind’s comment at the last Forward in Faith Assembly that what we seek is not “provision” but “communion.” That is the key question being put to all of us collectively and individually.
What does it mean for us when we say we believe we are Catholics? The anglo-papalist response (and surely anglo-papalists are what we as members of the “original integrity” are now committed to be, wherever we began) is that the “reforms” of the 16th century were forced upon a reluctant Church (and, to begin with, a reluctant populace) by a tyrannical State. This remains the justification for our use of Roman liturgy, particularly the ancient Roman Canon, now in the Missal of Paul VI, Eucharistic Prayer I.
The Church is Holy, Catholic and Apostolic and entirely belonging to God and no act of state can change that fact. So far so good, but then the difficulties multiply. How far can a community be said to remain “Catholic” when the majority of its members are either unaware of or vehemently repudiate the very notion? How can one justify the claim without redefining catholicity (in its accepted, visible, pre-16th Century sense) out of existence altogether, which, of course, is essentially the situation the reformers ended up with despite their appeal to the Fathers? What can we say, even anachronistically, about the executions of Ss Thomas More and John Fisher and the later martyrdoms of those such as Campion and Southwell, whose theology we probably all share and whose witness we cannot but admire?
How can we as a body move towards reconciliation with the Holy See without denying much, if not all, of our separate history and our previous claims to Catholicity itself? How much of our Anglican heritage, including those things which are dearest to us in terms of ethos and liturgy, can or should be repatriated within the Universal Church? Many of us have long accepted that for us “catholicity” - whether in terms of our theology of the Church or the nature of the holy orders we have received - is to a great extent an aspiration rather than a present reality.
All these questions could be quietly put to one side when (as at the time of my own priestly ordination) Rome and Canterbury seemed to be on a rapidly converging course. Now, when, as exiles and asylum seekers, we stand at the banks of the Tiber hoping to be sent a boat large enough to carry us all across they have to faced fairly and squarely.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The parting of friends

The disagreement among those who have commented upon Fr Jeffrey Steel’s announcement that he is crossing the Tiber raises some important questions. We are obviously at an extremely sensitive stage in terms of where we, as Anglican Catholics, are heading. Certainly, we are all (certainly all members of SSC and of Forward in Faith) committed by our Rule of Life to seeking reconciliation with Rome. At this stage of our exodus from the Church of England (or the Church in Wales) we as the PBI (military term) of the Catholic Movement have, rightly, little idea of what progress has been made towards any form of corporate reconciliation. Our immediate task is to be faithful and to hold together and to do what Catholics do – gather around our bishop (if we have one) and prayerfully await developments.
This is a very delicate matter, but certainly over the last couple of generations, with some honourable exceptions, notably the PEVs, we have not exactly been blessed by consistent and clear-sighted episcopal leadership within the Catholic Movement, not only in the British Isles but throughout the Anglican Communion. If, to take an example close to my heart, in Wales there had been a concerted and disciplined attempt to create the kind of corporate identity encouraged by the present Bishop of Ebbsfleet and his predecessors, perhaps we would not have been outmanoeuvred quite so easily, we might not have been “episcopally orphaned” and fallen victim to the divide and rule policy of the current Welsh Bench. We were inconsistent in terms of our theology of communion and too emotionally committed to a Province which had clearly shown its intention to depart further and further from Catholic faith and order. The wrong kind of institutional loyalty proved to be our downfall.
However, the past is the past; it cannot be changed.
Now, in Wales, we can only look to the nearest orthodox bishop and ignore as best we can the canonical difficulties which that involves and the inevitable embarrassment caused to the object of our ecclesial loyalty. Despite some evidence to the contrary we are not congregationalists; we need a Catholic Bishop, of whose college of priests we form a part, in order to be able to function at all.
So we hold together; we resist protestant individualism and fragmentation and await developments.
But there will be exceptions. There will be those clergy who, in conscience after reflecting upon our present condition and our history, come to the view that the post-reformation ecclesia anglicana has not so much in recent years departed from Catholic order as having never possessed it in the first place; there will be those who go to the altar not believing that the sacraments they confect are valid in any sense whatsoever and have never been, and that their previous view of the office they hold is a lie and an encouragement to others to remain in dishonesty. These are those who must seek immediate individual reconciliation and swim the Tiber without delay. And in a confused and increasingly confusing situation, they should go with our prayers and our continuing friendship and without recrimination.

The State of the Nation

An interesting broadcast from BBC Radio 4 this week – the 2009 Reith Lectures which are focusing on the relationship between altruism and the market economy. Under the title, “Markets and Morals,” Michael Sandel, the Harvard Professor of Government, is giving four broadcast lectures about the prospects of “a new politics of the common good.”
Catholic theology from St Augustine onwards has traditionally had quite a lot to say about relationships within human society, so much of what was said in today’s first lecture can probably be considered to be an attempt in a post-Christian society to re-invent the wheel. It was fascinating nonetheless, and it is good to see this kind of debate beginning again in a political context in Britain after years of sterile managerialism and lack of vision and a corresponding and worrying decline in people’s interest and involvement in the political process.
However, much of that refusal to be involved either in the membership of political parties, in the political debate itself and in the physical act of casting one’s vote can be explained by the widespread popular belief that politicians actively try to avoid telling the truth. Political “spin” begins with the imperative of putting the best possible gloss on any given situation, but has been seen by many to end in the telling of downright lies. The power British society has accorded to the mass media is a direct result of our politicians failing to communicate directly and truthfully with the electorate. The rise of extremist fringe parties of various kinds, such as the BNP or UKIP, can clearly be traced to the failure of politicians to be honest with voters and to try to convince them of the rightness of the policies they wish to pursue. This is true both in terms of our membership of the EU and over such issues as immigration and asylum. Personally, I have absolutely no sympathy with the policies of either UKIP or (God forbid!) the BNP, but I can understand why some people vote for them. Our mainstream politicians, from our floundering Prime Minister - and all those who aspire to replace him - downwards, need to re-learn the virtues of telling the truth and in actively campaigning for what they really believe, even if that risks courting unpopularity. (The same advice could be profitably taken to heart by our ecclesiastical leaders too.)
Only in this way will the political class begin to regain the respect of the people. This really is a simple question of morality.

Monday, 8 June 2009

“Wear your tribulation like a rose.”

The Anglo-Catholic blogosphere is about to lose one of its brightest lights as Fr Jeffrey Steel has announced his decision to become, in the terminology of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, “a solo swimmer.” In these matters one has to obey one’s conscience, and our prayers and good wishes accompany
Fr Jeffrey as he makes a individual journey which most of us in our heart of hearts recognise is the only logical (and consistent theological) conclusion to our present difficulties.
“Well, chaps, we had a good run,” would be the phrase of another catholic blogger which springs to mind, closely followed by “ but it’s over now.”
It is very hard indeed at this stage to view the future with any kind of equanimity. Clearly our days as Anglican Catholics are numbered, but that’s hardly a startling revelation to anyone who is living through what surely has to be regarded as the death-throes of the Oxford Movement.
Anyone who has been involved for any length of time in “fighting the long defeat” within the Anglican context will be aware of the temptation to despair and sink into depression. The noonday devil is a constant companion in these days.
Here in Wales, Catholics in the Church in Wales have been living for almost twelve months with a sense of bereavement, not only because of the loss of a Father in God with whom we were in full communion but also because of the complete and blatant betrayal of the promises made to us. If we were honest, even the most cynical among us would have to admit we did not think such a thing could be possible – for solemn promises to be made which would be broken just a few short years later and by those who, even if more often than not one disagreed with them radically, we always (more than a little naively as it turned out) regarded as men and women of integrity, and brothers and sisters in a fairly small and close-knit ecclesial family.
What of the future? We are greatly indebted to the Bishop of Ebbsfleet for his honourable and consistent support for us so far as canon law and the niceties of Anglican inter-provincial contacts allow, although in some ways the River Wye has never seemed wider. There are those (and I count myself among them) who still hope against hope for at least some kind of corporate reconciliation with the Holy See as part of Bishop Andrew’s “untidy caravan.” As things stand that prospect seems at best somewhat uncertain.
But for those who wish to remain in the church of their baptism (and that begs many questions, I know) the price will be either to submit to the current heterodoxy or hope (mistakenly I believe) that by remaining silent they will be left alone.
And in the meantime we wear our “tribulation like a rose” and do what the Catholic Church has always done, minister to the flock of which we have the spiritual charge, baptise the infants, bury the dead, teach the faith and day by day offer upon the altar the sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world.
But I have to say that in returning to the recitation of the Salve after Night Prayer in these days after Pentecost, its words have never seemed more poignant:

Salve Regina, mater misericordiae,
vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad te clamamus, exsules filii Hevae;
Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes
in hac lacrymarum valle.
Eia ergo, advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui,
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O Clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

Monday, 1 June 2009


Saturday 13th June, 7.30 p.m.
at St George’s, Bristol.

Kathryn Price (cello)
Charles Matthews (piano)

Barber Cello Sonata Op 6
Shostakovich Sonata in D minor Op 40
Rachmaninov Sonata for Cello and Piano Op 19

Tickets available from St Arvans Vicarage or at the box office: £20; £15; £10. £5 Students and Under 18s.
A coach will be leaving St Arvans, cost minimal.