Thursday 30 September 2010

Unseasonal, but....

From the comments section of Fr Hunwicke's blog, we read of the Church of England Easter Egg (also here.)  I assume it will be the first of its kind to be held together with sticking plaster and wishful thinking or, by the time it hits the shelves, be sold in an advanced stage of disintegration, 'pre-broken' to add that extra touch of authenticity.

September 'epiphanies'

Isn't it strange how at times of great upheaval it's possible for the mind and the emotions to veer between  opposing opinions, in this instance thinking both that the Anglo-Catholic movement is over, the game is up for sacramental orthodoxy within Anglicanism,  and that we must now follow our consciences and leave as soon as we can, coupled with a desire to stick within the comfort zone because of the fear of making what will be a leap in the dark? It explains a lot about current reactions to SSWSH and the Ordinariates.

So, to be autobiographical for a moment (and what we are experiencing now is, of course, deeply personal in terms of both our analysis and the decisions we will have to take), on the bright side, albeit in a rather bleak sort of way, I've had two moments of epiphany, a couple of weeks apart; quite trivial on the surface, but enough to tip the balance and stiffen resolve.

First, there were these comments made a few days before Pope Benedict's visit by a columnist on the Daily Telegraph, someone who describes himself as "a Christmas-and-Easter Anglican:"

"Don’t get me wrong – I think that it’s great that the Pope’s coming here, and that the Church of England is engaging with his visit in a constructive manner. But I haven’t heard anyone take the opportunity – at a time when religion’s profile has suddenly soared – to state the basic Protestant case: that faith is, in essence, a matter of active and personal choice, the result of an individual contract with God rather than something mediated through the authority of the Church in Rome."
So much for the legacy of the Oxford Movement in today's C of E , one might think - what were this man's confirmation classes actually like, if he remembers them at all? But I would guess it's not an atypical reaction from the average modern Anglican, not consciously influenced by the Catholic movement.

The second moment was yesterday afternoon, stuck in traffic in the centre of Bristol with time to worry about the future. I switched on the car radio and heard the versicles and responses on BBC Radio 3's Choral Evensong sung quite well , if somewhat theatrically, by....... the female officiant. The profound cultural and theological  shift in what was once my Church was given voice.
What we have known and loved is over; there is no going back; the only way to preserve and develop it is to go forward.
So, thank God for Anglicanorum Coetibus - this historic opportunity "to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."

That's a personal view, not everyone will share it; there are honourable reasons for staying just as there are for going and, for many, timing and the care of those closest to them will be the crucial issues. We need to pray for one another and support one another as we move forward.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Michaelmass: SSWSH and flick!

From the roodscreen at Ranworth, Norfolk, probably painted during the 1470s.
Photograph  courtesy of Dr Simon Cotton

Apologies to Harry Potter fans for the title of this post

Given the appalling weather, I think my annual walk to the top of the Skirrid mountain (where there are the foundations remaining of a pre-reformation chapel dedicated to St Michael - see last year's post here) will have to be postponed. 'Wimp' - do I hear you say?

O Everlasting God,
who hast ordained and constituted the services of angels
and men in a wonderful order:
mercifully grant; that as thy holy Angels
alway do thee service in heaven,
so by thy appointment they may succour
and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
 (1662 Book of Common Prayer, one of Cranmer's better efforts at translation - no hidden agendas)

The modern Anglican collect - (Common Worship and its derivatives) largely keeps the prayer intact apart from the horrible substitution of 'mortals' for 'men.' We are all aware of what that is trying to achieve, but whatever else it may be it's not English, and these days just sounds like something lifted from a popular novel about vampires - all the rage I gather!

In current circumstances, perhaps the Leonine prayer is more appropriate for us: 

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness
and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


There are more perceptive comments on SSWSH from Bishop Edwin here and Fr Sean Finnegan here (who has correctly interpreted the future make-up (no pun intended)  of those in Anglican 'ministry.'
But this analysis from Fr Hunwicke is devastating.

For once, I'll be clear: I'm a wholehearted supporter of the Ordinariate, but I know from my own experience that it's a difficult line to tread, the tightrope between speaking the truth in love to our friends and the dangers of being uncharitable and causing further divisions. But I don't think the critics of the new Society have crossed that line; they are only concerned to act and think clearly, consistently and theologically, perhaps never a popular move in the ecclesia anglicana. But we must, as the Anglo-Catholic Movement's systemic inability to act corporately becomes ever clearer and we seem to be heading in different directions, be careful to build bridges, keep doors open and prove that, even in the midst of our natural anxiety, anger, disillusionment and sense of betrayal as old certainties crumble to dust around us, we are motivated by the love of Christ. As the Holy Father said - we must all look into our hearts.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Forming an orderly queue for the life-boats?

There's a necessary discussion started by Fr Ed Tomlinson here on the nature of the new Missionary Society of SS Wilfrid and Hilda. He certainly raises questions which will need to be answered sooner rather than later. Is the new Society intended to provide a temporary safe-haven for those intending, when circumstances allow, to join the Ordinariates, or is it envisaged as a more permanent home for those Anglo-Catholics who have a problem with the acceptance of papal authority?
To my mind at least, one of the stark and unsettling lessons of the last 20 years has been precisely the dawning recognition of the need for definite doctrinal and disciplinary authority amid the disintegration of the Chalcedonian doctrinal consensus in those churches separated from Rome, and the (related) ending of a common approach to the central issues of moral theology, even where, as for example in Anglicanism itself, that approach has been more pastoral than juridical.
We live amidst the wreckage of post-reformation Christendom, where ecclesial bodies themselves have been the victims of doctrinal and moral relativism, and where internal battles for 'orthodoxy' within these churches have been raging for at least a couple of generations if not more. The battle for the Catholic orientation of Anglicanism has now been lost, the opportunity has come and gone. We have to face that fact squarely and not take refuge in the delusion that the situation can be reversed. If there is a future for orthodox belief within Anglicanism (and I doubt that increasingly, at least in the long run) it is with the provinces of the global South and with a theology owing more and more to the sixteenth century reformers (who, many of us would agree, began the process which has led us to our present crisis) Whatever else we might say about such a grouping, there is no place for Catholics within it.

G.K. Chesterton said that the one self-evident belief of Christianity was that of original sin; you only had to look about you to see that it was true. It seems to me that the one self evident truth of ecclesiology is an infallible Church; the alternative is no church at all, only the maze of private judgement and the ludicrous and  falsely compassionate inconsistencies of situation ethics coupled with a cafeteria approach to the credal statements of the Christian faith. If our recent experience as Anglo-Catholics has taught us anything it is the need for the office of the papacy, and the papacy as it now functions and not some looser and less authoritative 'primus inter pares' role. We know exactly where that leads. [Here]
The appeal to apostolic tradition, to the Fathers and the consensus of the Undivided Church means little (as we have seen) to those who cannot accept the infallibility of the Church herself, guided by the Holy Spirit down the ages. To argue now for a kind of 'Western Catholicism without the Pope' (the 'Northern Catholicism' myth) seems to fly in the face not only of the evidence but of sanity itself. We can't turn the clock back, we can't pretend to live in a more ordered, less aggressively secularist world, we are not, for the most part, capable of the deep, consensual and unshakeable veneration of tradition of the Eastern Orthodox, who have yet to face the full onslaught of secularism in the societies where they are strongest and who, in any case, are slowly recognising the need for Catholic unity and a concerted approach in the face of the attack of modern secularism.

This leaves those who have problems with papal authority, or with the definition of the Marian dogmas or whatever, between a rock and a hard place. I completely agree with Fr Tomlinson that the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda has to make up its mind as to what it is intended to be - an organisation equipped to ensure a safe, if gradual, embarkation onto the barque of St Peter - however long it takes (and that could be an interesting ecumenical venture in itself) - or an exercise in hospice care under the aegis of our most implacable opponents. Ambiguity on this issue may seem expedient now, but will only be a recipe for disaster as time goes on.

Saturday 25 September 2010

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet's Pastoral Letter

Belatedly, here is the full text of Bishop Andrew's pastoral letter:

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet's Pastoral Letter - October 2010

Joining the Ordinariate

In this, the third of a series of Pastoral Letters, I promised to address the issue of the English Ordinariate. In August I looked at what had happened at the General Synod in York and in September I looked at the business of electing a new General Synod.
Those who join the new Ordinariate, offered by the Pope in Anglicanorum Cœtibus in the autumn of 2009, will do so for one of two reasons. One reason would be that, looking hard at the General Synod, past and future, there seems little prospect of adequate provision for Anglo-catholics in the Church of England. We don't need a glasshouse with a special climate, or an Indian Reserve where we can do strange dances round a totem pole, follow strange customs, and wear strange clothes. Still less do we need some kind of nursing home where we can live out our days in peace and quiet.
In our view, Anglican the orders of bishop, priest, and deacon, and Anglican sacraments, are either the ancient orders and sacraments of the Church, as they have been handed down to us from the time of the apostles, or they are not. You can't muck about with orders and sacraments! If Anglo-catholic orders and sacraments are not the same as those of other Anglicans, we are not proper Anglicans, and if Anglican orders and sacraments generally are not the same as those of other Catholic Christians, East and West, then our orders and sacraments are not Catholic. Our main problem is not with our own orders and sacraments at this present moment in Anglo-catholic parishes, but what has been happening with other Anglicans. This has already begun to affect our orders and sacraments and what they will be in the future.
There are stories of people no longer being baptised 'in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'. There are stories of people - even a dog! - being admitted to Holy Communion without being baptised. There are stories of people no longer using wheat flour and grape for the Eucharist or making up the order of service as they go along. There are stories about lay people presiding at the Eucharist. There are marriages of two people of the same sex. These are mostly stories from overseas but, leaving aside what is happening in the Anglican Communion, we are now challenged in England by the prospect of women bishops, an unscriptural development. In short, the first reason for joining the Ordinariate might be that Anglo-catholics are no longer confident that they belong to the Catholic Church whose Faith and Order has been handed down from the apostles. If we finally came to that conclusion, that would be a good reason to seek to join one of the ancient branches of the Church, East or West. If we made the decision to explore the ancient branches of the Church, that, in turn, might be a reason to choose to join the Ordinariate, part of the ancient Church of the West.
The second reason for joining the new Ordinariate is, I think, a better one. It is not about leaving anything behind but about joining something new. It is not about leaving a body which has gone astray and belonging to a more reliable body. The second reason works something like this. Anglo-catholics have always thought of themselves as separated from Rome - from the Pope - by circumstances of history. Henry VIII's divorce from his first wife was made possible by divorcing the whole English Church from the Holy See. The King was to be in charge of the Church and not the Pope. It is for this reason that we have been brought up on a diet of 'No popery!', the propaganda of the Tudor state and of Stuarts imperilled by the gunpowder plot. It is for this reason that the heir to the British crown cannot be a Catholic. Anglo-catholics have generally regretted this and seen it as necessary to do all they could to bring about a reconciliation with Rome. No one has been more enthusiastic about the work of ARCIC, the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, this last forty years, than Anglo-catholics. And yet as the work of ARCIC goes into its third phase, Anglicans and Roman Catholics have grown further apart. It is for this reason that the Holy See has responded to the plight of Anglo-catholics with the offer of an Ordinariate. In short, the second reason to join the new Ordinariate is because it is the way - and for the foreseeable future the only way - that groups of Anglicans can become reconciled with Rome, and embrace the ministry of Peter. It is the only way of pursuing together our ecumenical agenda, the urgency of which becomes more obvious, the more Christianity is under attack by secularism.
Joining the Ordinariate is not a matter to be considered lightly. Clergy who do so put their stipends and pensions, their homes and their security at risk. In some cases the response of laity will be so enthusiastic that whole congregations might be able to move together, with their parish priest. In most cases, the Ordinariate groups will be church-planting new congregations, congregations of perhaps only thirty or so people to start with, but thirty enthusiasts nonetheless. Such congregations of activists will probably grow rapidly, but there, of course, lies another risk. There are many clergy and laity who would love to possess the courage for this pioneering venture but they simply do not. Not everyone is at heart a risk-all pioneer. Not everyone can be: we all have real responsibilities to families to balance against the radical demand of the Gospel.
And where do Ebbsfleet congregations, their clergy and people, stand in relation to all this? I want people to make decisions about the future carefully and prayerfully. I set out a prospectus for some of this a few years ago. There are, I think, three different responses to the present emergency. None is right for everyone. One is what I called the 'non-jurors', those who soldier on, know that they are a dying breed, but are content to be witnesses of what they have always believed and practised. Some mainly elderly clergy and congregations are of that view. The second group are the 'solo swimmers', individuals who go off on their own and join the local Catholic congregation. The third group is the 'caravan'. By this I don't mean a holiday home. The 'caravan' in biblical times was something like the trek of the Children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, via Mount Sinaï. The caravan is large and ramshackle, camels and people trudging along, children running around and playing . There are new-borns in the caravan and people dying. People join and people leave. The beginning of the caravan is somewhere ahead of us, over the horizon. The back of the horizon is way behind us, further than eye can see. This, I think, is, for many, the Ebbsfleet journey. This was the theme, the Exodus theme - Marching towards the Promised Land: a Land of Milk and Honey - at our joyful Festivals of Faith.

May God bless you as you faithfully seek to serve him in his holy Church.

+ Andrew

Catching up with developments....

Away for a few days this week on some essential business - it's probably a prudent idea to make sure we have a roof over our heads come le déluge. The prospect of having to find a vacant park bench and a stock of broadsheet newspapers to keep us warm doesn't thrill us at all. To quote a friend: "it's one thing to recognise that my own life is screwed up, its another thing to screw up the lives of those who depend on me" - except that's not the exact expression he used......

Some reflections on the Holy Father's Visit later - I left these shores at about the same time, but in a different direction - but already it is very clear that this Papal Visit has had and will have an impact and a significance far beyond what was expected, even by many of us who were eagerly anticipating it. Words were spoken which will resonate for a long time in many hearts and minds.
Being away, sadly I wasn't able to be present at the Synod called by the 'Catholic bishops of the C of E' (there's a telling phrase in itself); in any case I always find family funerals distressing and I'm not really that sorry to have missed this one. There are reports by Bishop Edwin Barnes and Fr Mark Zorab here and here

As for the new Missionary Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda (website here), it would be very sensible to reserve judgement; it could have a highly welcome contribution to make if it proves to have a vocation as a stepping stone to advance the goal of further unity between Anglicanism, the Ordinariates and Rome ( a sort of "not yet the Ordinariate,"  a kind of rear-guard protecting the bridge over the Tiber - even the rearguard of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet's "caravan" here) rather than simply being a refuge for those unwilling to recognise the truth about our situation. We should probably try to ensure, if we possibly can, that the former is precisely its role. But only time will tell.

But whatever happens on a personal level in the short-term (what does that matter in the wider picture?), it is my fervent hope and prayer that the Ordinariates will soon be successfully launched and grow steadily in numbers and in influence and that they will  be one of the enduring legacies of this Pope of Christian Unity, a truly prophetic reaching out to those separated by one of the greatest tragedies of history.
We must salute without any qualification those who are willing (and able) to join now, but it's clear that many are not yet in that enviable position, theologically, financially, pastorally, canonically. Patience... the Ordinariate is specifically designed to be an open-ended project.. .
Yet those who have to stay put pro tem, for whatever reason, are not going to be transformed into enthusiastic Anglican loyalists. To be obedient (even to the vocation of Anglicanism, certainly as defined by true ecumenists such as Archbishop Michael Ramsey) we must remain disobedient to the idea that Anglicanism is an end in itself and has any other vocation than to be reunited with the rock from which we were hewn and the ending of a five hundred year schism. The commitment (Our Lord's command to us, that is!) to visible unity, reaffirmed once again in the visit of the Holy Father to Lambeth Palace, forces us to be disobedient to those things which separate us, both to the doctrinal 'innovations' of postmodern Anglicanism and its very recent departures from apostolic tradition in respect of Holy Order and moral theology, and disobedient, too, with regard to our historical liturgical deficiencies.

If we have to remain (for whatever period) many of us will stay as the convinced papalists which we have become in direct response to the disintegration of the Anglican world. If we are challenged or criticised over that by those in roles of Anglican episcopal leadership, I hope that after that recent meeting at Lambeth and what was said there, they will have the decency to blush the same colour as their cassocks. Words, only words......what do they matter? Say one thing, do another....all in a day's work where ecumenism is concerned. Although, perhaps one should not judge them too harshly, being now merely the servants of a runaway synodical process...

Sunday 19 September 2010

Pope Benedict's Address at the Hyde Park Vigil

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This is an evening of joy, of immense spiritual joy, for all of us. We are gathered here in prayerful vigil to prepare for tomorrow’s Mass, during which a great son of this nation, Cardinal John Henry Newman, will be declared Blessed. How many people, in England and throughout the world, have longed for this moment! It is also a great joy for me, personally, to share this experience with you. As you know, Newman has long been an important influence in my own life and thought, as he has been for so many people beyond these isles. The drama of Newman’s life invites us to examine our lives, to see them against the vast horizon of God’s plan, and to grow in communion with the Church of every time and place: the Church of the apostles, the Church of the martyrs, the Church of the saints, the Church which Newman loved and to whose mission he devoted his entire life.
I thank Archbishop Peter Smith for his kind words of welcome in your name, and I am especially pleased to see the many young people who are present for this vigil. This evening, in the context of our common prayer, I would like to reflect with you about a few aspects of Newman’s life which I consider very relevant to our lives as believers and to the life of the Church today.
Let me begin by recalling that Newman, by his own account, traced the course of his whole life back to a powerful experience of conversion which he had as a young man. It was an immediate experience of the truth of God’s word, of the objective reality of Christian revelation as handed down in the Church. This experience, at once religious and intellectual, would inspire his vocation to be a minister of the Gospel, his discernment of the source of authoritative teaching in the Church of God, and his zeal for the renewal of ecclesial life in fidelity to the apostolic tradition. At the end of his life, Newman would describe his life’s work as a struggle against the growing tendency to view religion as a purely private and subjective matter, a question of personal opinion. Here is the first lesson we can learn from his life: in our day, when an intellectual and moral relativism threatens to sap the very foundations of our society, Newman reminds us that, as men and women made in the image and likeness of God, we were created to know the truth, to find in that truth our ultimate freedom and the fulfilment of our deepest human aspirations. In a word, we are meant to know Christ, who is himself “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).
Newman’s life also teaches us that passion for the truth, intellectual honesty and genuine conversion are costly. The truth that sets us free cannot be kept to ourselves; it calls for testimony, it begs to be heard, and in the end its convincing power comes from itself and not from the human eloquence or arguments in which it may be couched. Not far from here, at Tyburn, great numbers of our brothers and sisters died for the faith; the witness of their fidelity to the end was ever more powerful than the inspired words that so many of them spoke before surrendering everything to the Lord. In our own time, the price to be paid for fidelity to the Gospel is no longer being hanged, drawn and quartered but it often involves being dismissed out of hand, ridiculed or parodied. And yet, the Church cannot withdraw from the task of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel as saving truth, the source of our ultimate happiness as individuals and as the foundation of a just and humane society.
Finally, Newman teaches us that if we have accepted the truth of Christ and committed our lives to him, there can be no separation between what we believe and the way we live our lives. Our every thought, word and action must be directed to the glory of God and the spread of his Kingdom. Newman understood this, and was the great champion of the prophetic office of the Christian laity. He saw clearly that we do not so much accept the truth in a purely intellectual act as embrace it in a spiritual dynamic that penetrates to the core of our being. Truth is passed on not merely by formal teaching, important as that is, but also by the witness of lives lived in integrity, fidelity and holiness; those who live in and by the truth instinctively recognize what is false and, precisely as false, inimical to the beauty and goodness which accompany the splendour of truth, veritatis splendor.
Tonight’s first reading is the magnificent prayer in which Saint Paul asks that we be granted to know “the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding” (Eph 3:14-21). The Apostle prays that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith (cf. Eph 3:17) and that we may come to “grasp, with all the saints, the breadth and the length, the height and the depth” of that love. Through faith we come to see God’s word as a lamp for our steps and light for our path (cf. Ps 119:105). Newman, like the countless saints who preceded him along the path of Christian discipleship, taught that the “kindly light” of faith leads us to realize the truth about ourselves, our dignity as God’s children, and the sublime destiny which awaits us in heaven. By letting the light of faith shine in our hearts, and by abiding in that light through our daily union with the Lord in prayer and participation in the life-giving sacraments of the Church, we ourselves become light to those around us; we exercise our “prophetic office”; often, without even knowing it, we draw people one step closer to the Lord and his truth. Without the life of prayer, without the interior transformation which takes place through the grace of the sacraments, we cannot, in Newman’s words, “radiate Christ”; we become just another “clashing cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) in a world filled with growing noise and confusion, filled with false paths leading only to heartbreak and illusion.
One of the Cardinal’s best-loved meditations includes the words, “God has created me to do him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another” (Meditations on Christian Doctrine). Here we see Newman’s fine Christian realism, the point at which faith and life inevitably intersect. Faith is meant to bear fruit in the transformation of our world through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives and activity of believers. No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual, ignoring the profound crisis of faith which has overtaken our society, or simply trusting that the patrimony of values handed down by the Christian centuries will continue to inspire and shape the future of our society. We know that in times of crisis and upheaval God has raised up great saints and prophets for the renewal of the Church and Christian society; we trust in his providence and we pray for his continued guidance. But each of us, in accordance with his or her state of life, is called to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom by imbuing temporal life with the values of the Gospel. Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person. As our Lord tells us in the Gospel we have just heard, our light must shine in the sight of all, so that, seeing our good works, they may give praise to our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).
Here I wish to say a special word to the many young people present. Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what “definite service” he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart. Christ has need of families to remind the world of the dignity of human love and the beauty of family life. He needs men and women who devote their lives to the noble task of education, tending the young and forming them in the ways of the Gospel. He needs those who will consecrate their lives to the pursuit of perfect charity, following him in chastity, poverty and obedience, and serving him in the least of our brothers and sisters. He needs the powerful love of contemplative religious, who sustain the Church’s witness and activity through their constant prayer. And he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” Do not be afraid to give yourself totally to Jesus. He will give you the grace you need to fulfil your vocation. Let me finish these few words by warmly inviting you to join me next year in Madrid for World Youth Day. It is always a wonderful occasion to grow in love for Christ and to be encouraged in a joyful life of faith along with thousands of other young people. I hope to see many of you there!
And now, dear friends, let us continue our vigil of prayer by preparing to encounter Christ, present among us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Together, in the silence of our common adoration, let us open our minds and hearts to his presence, his love, and the convincing power of his truth. In a special way, let us thank him for the enduring witness to that truth offered by Cardinal John Henry Newman. Trusting in his prayers, let us ask the Lord to illumine our path, and the path of all British society, with the kindly light of his truth, his love and his peace. Amen.

Friday 17 September 2010

The Holy Father at Westminster Abbey

"Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age. This is the word of encouragement which I wish to leave with you this evening, and I do so in fidelity to my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock."

From Pope Benedict's address at Westminster Abbey

Read the full text of the address here

Thursday 16 September 2010

"Religion is a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect"

"The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a “dictatorship of relativism” threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good. There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty. Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister."
From Pope Benedict's homily at the Papal Mass at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow this evening.
Read the full text here


I have a certain sympathy with Fr Anthony Chadwick's words here about the details of Pope Benedict's Visit. Certainly, it is the substance which is important rather than the glitz, however much we might enjoy seeing it. However, I do think this papal visit  could be highly significant in moving forward the whole process of the realignment of Christendom which is going on beneath the surface of events, and not only as regards Anglicanorum Coetibus. Significant though the Ordinariates will be, even to begin with, I hope it they are also the sign of even greater things to come.
As for me  I have to confess that I'm going to grit my teeth a little bit through some of the coverage of the massive events in football stadiums and public parks - just a temperamental thing on my part, I suppose; but I do give thanks that the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ is here among us, and I want to see and hear what Pope Benedict has to say to us all and I do want to be able to reflect and act upon it.
Welcome Holy Father!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Own goal?

The BBC has described Cardinal Walter Kasper's comments that the UK seems like a "Third World country" marked by "a new and aggressive atheism" as an "own goal" on the eve of the Papal Visit.
Tactless perhaps, and unexpected from such a committed ecumenist, considered by most as somewhat more liberal than Pope Benedict himself, but his words are untrue in what way exactly? Perhaps he gained his  impression by listening to the output of British broadcasters.
Anyway, it gives the secularists an excuse to beat the nationalist / 'patriotic' drum. They'll be lighting fires to warn us of the Armada next.
Report here

Please pray for the Pope's visit to Britain

With just over 24 hours or so to go until the Pope lands in Edinburgh, he needs our prayers more than ever. It's been very disturbing for many of us to be confronted amost on the eve of the papal visit with what we might call the Channel 4 / Guardian axis of  atheistic no-popery.
We have been bombarded with the opinions of Richard Dawkins, A. C. Grayling and an increasing number of those who have built a second career as anti-Catholic media pundits. Most prominent of all has been Peter Tatchell, an extreme left-wing gay activist from Australia, now curiously elevated by the media to the status of a "human rights campaigner," and who also 'campaigns' for the age of consent to be lowered to 14 -  see here. Mr Tatchell has consistently, and particularly in his latest television 'documentary' on Pope Benedict for Channel 4, broadcast on Monday, displayed both a woeful and wilful ignorance of his subject matter and, yes, bigoted stupidity in failing to come to grips with what are the true beliefs and tenets of the Faith he so clearly hates for such transparently obvious reasons. It's sad that such vitriolic extremism now passes for mainstream broadcasting.
Only marginally better is the BBC's reporting and comment which is shot through with insinuation and half-truth, and a fundamental  lack of sympathy and understanding posing as objectivity, surely a clear indication that in Mark Thompson's words the Corporation's "“massive bias to the Left” (and here it is the atheist / agnostic left) is not entirely a thing of the past.
One can only hope and pray that during his State Visit Pope Benedict's luminous holiness, manifest and challenging intelligence, and concern for truth will win out against the venomous and hypocritical exponents of black propaganda.
I don't want to be ashamed of my country.

God of truth and love,

your Son, Jesus Christ, stands as the light
to all who seek you with a sincere heart.
As we strive with your grace
to be faithful in word and deed,
may we reflect the kindly light of Christ
and offer a witness of hope and peace to all.
We pray for Pope Benedict
and look forward with joy
to his forthcoming visit to our countries.
May he be a witness to the unity and hope
which is your will for all people.
We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Lady, Mother of the Church — pray for us.
St Andrew — pray for us.
St George — pray for us.
St David — pray for us.


God has created me to do Him some definite service
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another
I have my mission
I may never know it in this life
but I shall be told it in the next
I am a link in a chain
a bond of connection between persons
He has not created me for naught
I shall do good - I shall do His work
I shall be an angel of peace
a preacher of truth in my own place while not
intending it if I do but keep His commandments
Therefore I will trust Him whatever I am,
I can never be thrown away
If I am in sickness,
my sickness may serve Him,
in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him
If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him
He does nothing in vain
He knows what he is about
He may take away my friends
He may throw me among strangers
He may make me feel desolate
make my spirits sink
hide my future from me
– still He knows what He is about.

John Henry Newman

Tuesday 14 September 2010

In need of warmth on Holy Cross Day!

There's a great piece here on Fr Z's blog about the relationship betwen the culinary herb, basil (ocimum basilicum) and Holy Cross Day.
Which reminds me: the 'photo below shows the basil plant bought at a local village fete here and then taken over to France for the summer, and a pot from the local Tesco's. No prizes for guessing which is which!
But given the weather today, it's not only basil which needs sunshine and warmth. Metaphors, parallels..... do any spring to mind?

We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,

for he is our salvation our life and our resurrection,
through him we are saved and made free.

FATHER, your Son showed the depth of his love
when, for our sake,
he opened his arms on the Cross;
and he has commanded us to love one another.
Keep the brothers of the Society of the Holy Cross
united in love and in faith.
Through the saving power of the Cross
+ impressed inwardly upon our lives
and revealed outwardly in our work,
may others come to know
your love and your truth;
through Christ our Lord.

L'entente cordiale?

An interesting light being shone on L'affaire 'Thiberville' in the diocese of Evreux in Normandy.
This from Fr Chadwick, together with links to the background of the story.
It seems that Mgr Christian Nourrichard, the bishop of Evreux, has been taking part ('fraternally present at' is probably more accurate - ironically, just the sort of thing Anglican Catholics would have rejoiced to see before synodical decisions to ordain les femmes)  in an ordination of female clerics at Salisbury Cathedral, taking time out from the harrying of what certainly appears to be a highly successful traditional parish and its priest within his diocese; one report I've read even suggests that Pere Michel's parish provides a third of all confirmation candidates for the entire diocese.
This comment here seems to sum things up nicely:
"Anglicans n’est pas reconnue par l’Eglise, mais en outre, les « ordinations » de femmes créent des remous au sein même de la communion anglicane. Mais Mgr Nourrichard semble préférer la fréquentation de ces personnes à ses propres prêtres, comme l’abbé Francis Michel !"
Over the years many of us have commented, mostly sympathetically, on the various likenesses between English / British  Anglicanism and the Catholic Church in France. In some ways when we are there (not in the diocese of Evreux I hasten to add) we experience a feeling of familiarity (I can readily identify with "our" rural priests in the Vendee who arrive breathlessly at church for mass from an earlier celebration in the next village with their chasubles slung over their arms) and also a sense of, in some way being at home, although perhaps somewhat less so in recent years with the rise of the priest clutching a microphone, not to mention the ubiquitous 'animateuses,' who always seem to sing (just ever so slightly) off key, but that's another story.
But now I think the resemblance has gone just a bit too far!

Monday 13 September 2010

We don't like to say it, but we told you so

These are excerpts from a significant recent address given at Lambeth Palace by Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.
My emphases in red

"We are equally concerned about the fate of bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England.........
 The first difficulties in relation to the Church of England emerged in 1992 when its General Synod agreed to ordain women to the priesthood. The Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church came out with an official statement expressing regret and concern over this decision as contradicting the tradition of the Early Church.

One might ask why our Church should have concerned itself at all with this matter? By the early 90s the Protestant world had already ordained many women pastors and even women bishops. But the unique point here was that the Anglican Community had long sought rapprochement with the Orthodox Church. Many Orthodox Christians recognized the existence of apostolic continuity in Anglicanism. From the 19th century, Anglican members of the Association of Eastern Churches sought ‘mutual recognition’ with the Orthodox Church and its members believed that ‘both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments’.

Much has changed since. The introduction of the female priesthood in the Church of England was followed by discussions on the female episcopate. In response to the positive decision made by the Church of England’s General Synod on this issue, the Department for External Church Relations published a new statement saying that this decision ‘has considerably complicated dialogue with the Anglicans for Orthodox Christians’ and ‘has taken Anglicanism farther away from the Orthodox Church and contributed to further division in Christendom as a whole’.

We have studied the preparatory documents for the decision on female episcopate and were struck by the conviction expressed in them that even if the female episcopate were introduced, ecumenical contacts with the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches would not come to an end. What made the authors of these documents so certain? There was a second controversial statement. The same document argued that despite a possible cooling down in relations with Catholics and Orthodox, the Church of England would strengthen and broaden its relations with the Methodist Church and the Lutheran Churches in Norway and Sweden. In other words, the introduction of the female episcopate ‘will bring both gains and losses’. The question arises: Is not the cost of these losses too high? I can say with certainty that the introduction of the female episcopate excludes even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the apostolic continuity of the Anglican hierarchy.
We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.
Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture."

"Summing up, I wish to assert that today we have new divisions in Christendom, not only theological but also ethical. Regrettably, many Christian communities, which once maintained fraternal relations with the Orthodox Church for many years and were in dialogue with it, have shown themselves to be incapable or unwilling to assume obligations stemming from our dialogue. We accompany our reactions to these developments with assurances of respect for the right of all churches and communities to make decisions which they deem to be necessary. Yet, at the same time, we state with sadness that neither the official dialogue nor the most valuable relations and contacts in the past have kept some of our Anglican brothers and sisters from steps which have taken them even farther away from our common Christian Church Tradition.
On behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church I would like to stress that we continue to be fully committed to the dialogue with the Anglican Church and will do our utmost to keep this dialogue going. We do not betray our commitment to the dialogue. However, we feel that many of our Anglican brothers and sisters betray our common witness by departing from traditional Christian values and replacing them by contemporary secular standards. I very much hope that the official position of the Anglican Church on theological, ecclesiological and moral issues will be in tune with the tradition of the Ancient Undivided Church and that the Anglican leadership will not surrender to the pressure coming from liberals.
........Today, too, we do not abandon Christian love for our Anglican brothers and sisters. We do not abandon the hope that they, who once defied every danger during the hard years of war, will share with us that trust in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which rests on the solid foundation of the faith of holy apostles, the Fathers of the Nicean Council and the tradition of the Undivided Church."
Read it all here

Archbishop Hilarion, a considerable and increasingly influential figure in the Orthodox world, has to be commended for his plain speaking, something of a rarity among those whose business is ecumenism. However, the Anglican establishment will neither willing receive his message nor want you to hear it, and they also won't want you to know that they have absolutely no intention of responding positively to it. In fact, even in the utterly unlikely event that they wished to do so, it would be impossible: there is far too much of a vested (no pun intended) interest against a return to orthodoxy within those western Anglican provinces which have definitively rejected traditional (and universal)  interpretations of apostolicity and taken liberal revisionism into their very life-blood.
Of course, there is nothing new in all this, only chickens coming home to roost; and it gives me nothing but sorrow to say that this response from Archbishop Hilarion is only what so many of us have predicted for a considerable period.
But it's now too late: the die is already cast, the Rubicon crossed.
Those Anglicans loyal to Catholic faith and apostolic order must now extricate themselves in whatever way they can.

Saturday 11 September 2010

Weekend bits and bobs

A good article here by George Weigel - which goes much of the way to explaining why there is now no "abiding city" for traditional Anglo-Catholics within the Anglican Communion

The Holy Father's take on the abbess Hildegard of Bingen, personal conversion and (by implication) the abuse scandal here

The protection of the young and the vulnerable has to be paramount and the necessary checks and balances have to be in place (as they now are) to ensure they are protected, but why do we constantly hear demands for radical structural reform (with other, unrelated, issues just under the surface: it's all to do with the rule of celibacy or an all-male priesthood or whatever) rather than recognise the need for honesty, penitence and a continual process of conversion within our own hearts and minds - something which never lets up until life itself ceases?  Is it simply easier to point an accusing finger at structures and target 'institutional' guilt? They are always  'other people.' So ultimately it lets us off the hook.

The (soon to be) Blessed John Henry Newman - a possible second miracle? Here

From the Anglo-Catholic : Time to decide - a plea from Fr Chrsitopher Phillips

Field of Dreams  Fr Paul continues a timely reappraisal of the works of John de Satgé  - an important influence on many Anglicans 'of a certain age'.

'It begins with a trickle and ends in a flood'  The exodus begins? From the Catholic Herald here

Avoiding the Incarnation: a seriously thought-provoking piece from La Nouvelle Theologie

Not avoiding the Incarnation:
Our Lady on Saturday:
Angelus Domini:  Franz Biebl - sung by Chanticleer

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?

Tuesday 7 September 2010

The infinite possibilities of self-delusion

So….. back from what is still high summer in the Vendee to what feels very much like mid autumn in Wales.

What do I miss about the corner of France where, one day, we hope to live permanently ? The big sky, the gently rolling wooded countryside, despite the benefits of modern technology, the slower pace of life, the genuine courtesy among neighbours and friends, the country villages sleeping in the midday sunshine, the wayside calvaries and the shrines of Our Lady and all the evidence of a faith which neither the reformation (this was a part of France very much disputed between the Catholic Church and the Reform) nor the revolutionary genocide of the 1790s could extinguish. One day, perhaps…..

Holidays are meant to be a step back, a retreat from our normal routines and this August was a welcome opportunity for prayer and reflection upon an uncertain future. But it was back to reality on Sunday with a cancelled harvest picnic due to relentlessly driving rain. Repeat after me, “18 degrees Celsius is not cold... and this is still a beautiful part of the world and I’m very privileged to be able to serve here.”

Parish life starts up again with an episcopal (diocesan!) visit to one of my parishes (more on that again, perhaps) and the inevitable round of meetings and appointments associated with what the French call la rentrée. It would be very easy to adopt a ‘business as usual’ attitude to life, to tell ourselves that nothing really has changed, that life goes on as before.

I wonder what the September of 1536 was like. Did it come, like this year, after a rather wet July and August was replaced by a brief period of good weather? I don’t know - it’s probably possible to find out from documents of the period, but I suspect that it probably followed the pattern of most British summers - the climate hasn’t changed that much - it‘s always been unpredictable and inhospitable to those not brought up in it.

My reason for mentioning 1536 is that it’s not only the weather that can be hard to forecast. How many of the people of these parishes here had any clue that 474 years ago last Thursday (ironically on what we now observe as the feast day of St Gregory the Great) a whole way of life was in the process of being swept away, as the commissioners of Henry VIII descended on the Cistercian community at Tintern Abbey and closed it down, selling off its lands and property to the highest bidder. Life changed - no longer would the white monks or the Augustinians from Chepstow who looked after St Arvans parish itself be seen, celebrating the liturgy, travelling to their churches, caring for the poor and the sick, managing their lands. Here, they were spared the gruesome fate of those who resisted, or who were simply martyred so that others would fall into line.

For a short time nothing else changed very much at all. The religious communities were gone but church life for most people seemed to continue without much alteration, only (only?) the omission of a highly significant name in the canon of the mass. Trained to respect authority, people had little idea of what was going on. On the surface everything seemed to be much as it had always been, but in a few short years, with a change of monarch, everything familiar in parish life and much of what we would now call the cultural landscape was in the process of being swept away. By the time they realised, it was too late and the propagandists had gone to work. The brief interlude of restoration under Queen Mary Tudor was too short-lived to have any lasting effect, and in the next reign religious devotion to the Virgin Mother was replaced by the political cult of the Virgin Queen . As we know, history is largely written by those who win and unforgiving to the vanquished; we are very fortunate indeed if we are able to learn its lessons. “Anglicanism” at the beginning of its separate existence was largely the fruit of misplaced loyalties; it would be too much to expect that habit to change now in its dying days.

I had a startling conversation with my wife on holiday. I told her – not for the first time ( poor Kate!) that I felt utterly betrayed by what has happened within ‘our’ Church and repeatedly lied to, but that I was only now really beginning to appreciate the extent of the lie. “You mean you have been lied to since your baptism,” was the reply which rather took the wind out of my sails, but which describes my present mood with a rapier-like accuracy.

I’m afraid to say we are very far advanced along the way of a similar experience to that of the sixteenth century and we have to face the truth that life can be brutally unpredictable, and that it can never be taken for granted. On the one hand life can surprise us with so much joy and so many unexpected blessings, on the other it can hold difficulties and struggles and betrayals which if we were aware of them in advance, would be impossible to bear.

In the face of uncertainty and the crumbling to dust of old certainties it’s important to hold fast to what is the most important thing of all.

Perhaps the worst thing we can do in the present situation is to lose all our hope and our enthusiasm for the Gospel and our trust in the person of Christ. It’s all too easy to be despondent, to allow ourselves to be sunk in gloom and despair and ultimately to give up, or to go with the flow, to opt for an easy life. Yet we know in our hearts that Christ is the bringer of joy and hope; that our God who, just as he transforms the bread and wine offered on the altar to become Christ’s Body and Blood, is capable to transforming us so that we share in his very nature - so that we have union with him.

And in what will be the difficult and turbulent time ahead we must not be afraid to share the sufferings of Christ, so as to share his victory. But we need to take careful stock of what we have to do and precisely what it will cost us. Last Sunday’s Gospel tells us not to start building a tower unless we know we can finish the job. Otherwise, we shall - rightly - deserve to be mocked.