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.


  1. Thank you very much Father! All of you are my dearest friends and brothers who are in SSC. Please remember me as I remember you in my prayers! Thank you for your kind expression of support.

  2. Again I think the answer in the UK is RC national parishes. Not trying to take Anglican property but setting up new parishes where the best of Anglo-Catholicism can continue under Pope Benedict's authority.

    That's the closest thing possible to the corporate reunion once hoped for by ACs.


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