Monday, 12 July 2010

No cause for satisfaction

This post was published on the Anglo-Catholic blog earlier today

Whatever our views may be on the subject of the Ordinariates, and my own convinced view is that they are the only future for those Anglicans who are the natural successors of the Oxford Movement, we should not portray the recent decision of the Church of England as anything other than a serious reversal for the cause of Christian orthodoxy everywhere. Whatever one might think of Anglicanism, (and those of us who were brought up within its structures, yet professing the Catholic faith of the undivided Church, have at best an ambivalent relationship with it)  its wholesale and irreversible defection to the cause of revisionist liberal Protestantism can only harm the cause of orthodoxy wherever it might be found.
So this is Newman's prediction come true in our time and on our watch:
"In no other sense surely; the Church of England has been the instrument of Providence in conferring great benefits on me;—had I been born in Dissent, perhaps I should never have been baptized; had I been born an English Presbyterian, perhaps I should never have known our Lord's divinity; had I not come to Oxford, perhaps I never should have heard of the visible Church, or of Tradition, or other Catholic doctrines. And as I have received so much good from the Anglican Establishment itself, can I have the heart or rather the want of charity, considering that it does for so many others, what it has done for me, to wish to see it overthrown? I have no such wish while it is what it is, and while we are so small a body. Not for its own sake, but for the sake of the many congregations to which it ministers, I will do nothing against it. While Catholics are so weak in England, it is doing our work; and, though it does us harm in a measure, at present the balance is in our favour. What our duty would be at another time and in other circumstances, supposing, for instance, the Establishment lost its dogmatic faith, or at least did not preach it, is another matter altogether. In secular history we read of hostile nations having long truces, and renewing them from time to time, and that seems to be the position which the Catholic Church may fairly take up at present in relation to the Anglican Establishment.
Doubtless the National Church has hitherto been a serviceable breakwater against doctrinal errors, more fundamental than its own. How long this will last in the years now before us, it is impossible to say, for the Nation drags down its Church to its own level......"
What I am saying is that now the Church of England is rapidly losing this role as "a serviceable breakwater," the task of orthodox Christian apologetics becomes more urgent, not less, because we are engaged in a battle against heresy which will inevitably follow us wherever our final ecclesial destination may be. The victory of liberalism in the Church of England can only give encouragement to its supporters elsewhere.
Perhaps I'm an incurable romantic, but I don't believe this defeat was inevitable. If over the last fifty or sixty  years Anglican Catholics had been better organised, better and more consistently led, and less easily convinced of both our own success and of our opponents' sense of  honour, and all of us less enamoured  of the spirit of the age, things could have turned out very differently. What has now happened is in no sense whatsoever a victory and it should not give us cause for any kind of satisfaction, much less rejoicing.

But this is Newman again, once more from the Apologia, summing up what many of us are - with infinite regret - now feeling:
"...and, unwilling as I am to give offence to religious Anglicans, I am bound to confess that I felt a great change in my view of the Church of England. I cannot tell how soon there came on me,—but very soon,—an extreme astonishment that I had ever imagined it to be a portion of the Catholic Church. For the first time, I looked at it from without, and (as I should myself say) saw it as it was. Forthwith I could not get myself to see in it any thing else, than what I had so long fearfully suspected, from as far back as 1836,—a mere national institution."

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