"This, then is our desert:
to live facing despair,
but not to consent.
To trample it down under hope in the Cross.
To wage war against despair unceasingly.
That war is our wilderness.
If we wage it courageously,
we will find Christ at our side.
If we cannot face it,
we will never find him."
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
The Apostolic Constitution: thoughts so far...
The meeting in Bristol last night, attended by a small number of clergy and laity mainly from Bristol FiF, was a first step to exploring and discerning responses to Anglicanorum Coetibus in this part of the world.
It was left to those of us who had travelled across the border from the neighbouring Province to point out that the future for Catholics who wish to remain in the Church of England was likely to be that of those of us in the Church in Wales: a removal of episcopal provision and its replacement either with nothing at all except the “goodwill” of the diocesan bishops (which is our situation) or with a code of practice so weak it will be chipped away little by little until nothing remains. The problem with this kind of limited “toleration” is that it is inevitably time-limited (as again we in Wales have found out to our cost) and that, as in the United States, toleration can easily and rapidly become active persecution.
The Apostolic Constitution was received in the main enthusiastically, even if all those present were not sure of their immediate individual responses. It was pointed out by one of the speakers that the Anglo-Catholic tradition was hailed by Pope Benedict as “a precious gift” to the Church and that the contrast with the attitude towards us by the liberal establishment of our own Church could not be more marked. However large or small in number the initial Ordinariates would be, Rome is looking not for “forests,” “woods” or even “copses,” but for “acorns” which will grow over the years into something much more significant.
Parish events on 22nd February were discussed, as was the way forward as 2010 progresses.
On the whole it was a very positive meeting with the future prospect of including more of those from the Church in Wales who wish to respond positively to Pope Benedict’s fatherly concern for the preservation of our Anglican Catholic patrimony within the unity of the Catholic Church.
Watch this space.
And my own view of what is going on?
There is and will be a variety of responses to Anglicanorum Coetibus. Some will undoubtedly wish to stay put within the Anglican Communion, however flawed and increasingly at odds with apostolic faith and order that ecclesial body is and will become. There are those who, for reasons I understand even if I don’t entirely share, who were born in the Church of England (or Church in Wales) and wish to die - come what may - in that body.
There has been much adverse comment on the blogosphere and in the mass media generally about the postponing of a definite response to the Apostolic Constitution because of what some have regarded as an attempt to obtain a "better deal" from the C of E than that available under the Apostolic Constitution. That is, I think, wholly mistaken; we are a coalition of theological views not a completely united ecclesial body, and that is the difficulty for any “umbrella organisation” of Anglo-Catholics like Forward in faith or Credo Cymru. How does it care and support and obtain a future for all its traditions?
My (completely uninformed) guess is that the PEVs will see their duty of care to all their people through, in the sense of trying to get the best provision possible under the C of E’s synodical structure for the "incorrigable Anglicans" in our ranks, before making a final and public decision to join (or help set up) the Ordinariates in England.
But from the point of view of very many "Anglican Catholics" (and this is a view I share wholeheartedly) there can be by definition no “better deal” than communion with the See of Peter, and that Anglicanorum Coetibus is therefore for many of us the only show in town.
The problem with purely Anglican solutions to the difficulties we face is that GAFCON, like ACNA, has an ecclesiology which contains the seeds of its own destruction. There seems little point in "reinventing" an essentially Janus-like establishment Anglicanism which has two "parallel" views on the ordination of women but which, illogically, baulks at the liberal pan-sexual agenda and does little to further the goal of Catholic reunion.
However, definitive responses to the Apostolic Constitution are not going to happen overnight; in a world of instant reaction and comment the perceptions arising from that are a problem. We have to learn to think not in the modern Anglican "political" way (essentially the secular view that "there is only this world, so do things NOW") in terms of weeks, months and years, but in years, decades and even much longer. My feeling is that there will probably be an initial response and a fairly limited influx of clergy and laity into the Ordinariates as they are set up. Many others who also wish to respond positively will, for a variety of personal and pastoral reasons (by no means all unworthy), will have to join later in whatever capacity they can. But it seems to me that the Apostolic Constitution is designed particularly and expressly with this kind of staged, long-term response in mind; there is no time limit and Anglicanorum Coetibus is intended as a permanent provision.
My own prediction is that, as and when it becomes possible, more and more of those within the Anglican “Canterbury” Communion will join the Ordinariates here and throughout the world. The seemingly infinite capacity of the Anglican Communion to lurch from one theological and moral crisis to another will do nothing to hinder recruitment as minds are opened to the necessity of the magisterium, not only for the preservation of an authentically Christian faith but also in order to make evangelisation a reality. Fewer and fewer converts will be won from the world by the relativistic disorder of modern liberal establishment Anglicanism, if only because “conversion” in any traditional sense will, if the radical theological trends continue to gain ground, become less and less of a requirement.
And those who join the Anglican ordinariates in the second, third or fourth waves will, as one contributor to last night’s discussions said, even if they are unable at first to be “pillars” on the inside, will be “buttresses on the outside,” and, I hope, from whatever position they are in, will try to “shadow” the development of the Ordinariates liturgically and theologically, and prepare themselves and those around them for the time when a positive response will become possible.
This is a development which may well start out on a small scale, but it has a vast potential for growth because those who become part of this generous, exciting and developing experiment in true ecumenism will not have to renounce their Anglicanism but only to live it and fulfill it and share it within the wider communion of the Catholic Church.