Thursday, 9 September 2010

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

In France: the new pomegranate tree seen here through the branches of an established olive

I had an interesting conversation during the summer break with an old friend, also a priest, about our attitudes changing with age. He mentioned Lindsay Anderson's (wildly indulgent) 1968 film, "If," saying that, having seen the film again recently, his sympathies were now completely different from those he felt in his early twenties.  
Do we all naturally become more right wing or even reactionary as we grow older? Is it a process of cynical accommodation with the ways of the world, or is youthful idealism corrected by experience of life as it actually is? Is the comment, sometimes wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill, correct: "If you're not Liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not Conservative when you're 35, you have no brain?"
We all know those in the leadership of the Church for whom the complete opposite is true - which may explain the current state of things. The replacement in our own generation of tolerant conservatism with intolerant liberalism is a clear demonstration of the falsity of the myth of "progress."
The problem we are faced with throughout the Anglican world is that the liberals or progressives (or whatever they choose to call themselves) will never admit that they have ever been wrong on any issue. In their eyes, a priori (and secular) arguments of justice and equality always trump those from made either from tradition or even from observable experience. If any innovation fails to achieve what was initially claimed for it, then the fault either lies with those reactionary elements who have opposed it or with the fact that the 'reforms' have not gone far enough. So the liberal response to failure and decline is an ideological one: in the face of the evidence even more of the same is demanded.
It will be interesting, for those who have a macabre fascination with these kind of things, to see how Anglicanism realigns over the coming years after the exclusion and departure of traditional Anglo-Catholics. The "conservatives" will at this point be largely composed of those "central" Anglicans, moderate evangelicals and even those Affirming Catholics not completely  convinced by the wilder extremes of the "equality" lobby. However, they themselves may well meet the precisely same fate at the hands of runaway synods as we have, since by endorsing departures from apostolic tradition and mainstream moral theology, they have left themselves no way whatsoever of challenging or resisting the increasingly powerful radical agenda within wider Anglicanism. If you take the brakes off the vehicle, you can't complain that it won't stop on demand. We all know to our cost that the much vaunted and self-congratulatory Anglican processes of dialogue, discernment and  even the almost invariably misused term 'reception' is in the eyes of our opponents a one way street towards the implementation of their own heterodox vision. It is precisely this that has convinced many of us of the absolute necessity of the Catholic Magisterium and the pivotal role of the papacy as the custodian and guarantor of the authentic Christian tradition.
It is just possible even  at this late stage (although I wouldn't be prepared to put money on it) to imagine the supporters of the increasingly watered down Anglican Covenant achieving a new communion-wide consensus (which would now inevitably be neither "apostolic" nor credally orthodox) which allows the Communion to hold together in some recognisable form and even convince itself (if no one else) of the possibilities of renewed ecumenical dialogue with the historic communions of East and West.
But the question remains, who would really want to belong to it?

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