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.

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