England and Always: Coming Home
The British, the Empire, and the Faith, Part VIII
by Charles A. Coulombe
May 10, 2016
O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride. – G.K. Chesterton
Events followed fast and furiously after Bishop Pike’s non-trial. In 1976, the Episcopal Church permitted the creation of priestesses. This led to a number of parishes and individuals seceding from the main body, and gathering around what they called the “Affirmation of St. Louis”. A few of these, after a long process, were able to take advantage of a new “Pastoral Provision,” whereby, subject to the local Catholic bishop’s approval, they could enter the Church as individuals and form parishes wherein some elements of Anglican liturgy and piety could be retained. Their married clergy could be re-ordained as Catholic priests. Few of our bishops were interested in such parishes, however, though most of those so admitted would to-day have to be considered successes. In any case, they would be as much under the bishop’s control as any of his others. Most of the seceders were not interested in Rome however, nor were all Anglo-Catholic; they fell out among themselves, and, in this country, form at this writing three major bodies in what is called the “Anglican Continuum” — the Anglican Province of Christ the King (which has acquired Clare Boothe Luce’s memorial chapel to her daughter), the Anglican Catholic Church, and the Anglican Church in America — this last in turn bonded with similar groups around the world to form the Traditional Anglican Communion, of which more shortly. Some of the Eastern Orthodox bodies — most notably the Antiochian Orthodox — set up their own provisions for such folk.
As the years went on, more and more Anglican bodies began ordaining women; the Church of England was only able to do so in 1992, through an act of Parliament. At that time there was a fresh wave of individual converts, including the late Graham Leonard, the former Bishop of London. But via an organisation called “Forward in Faith,” the majority of Anglo-Catholic parishes agreed to stay in the Church of England under an arrangement whereby they would receive sacramental ministrations only from “flying bishops,” who would not ordain women. Further pressure was put upon these folk, however, by the rise of societal acceptance of homosexuality. Many Anglican leaders in Britain, the Americas, and Australasia pushed for the ordination of practising homosexuals as priests, and latterly for church weddings for them.
Another type of Anglo-Catholicism grew up — Affirming Catholicism (in both British and American styles); for these folk, there was no reason why Anglo-Catholic style worship could not be maintained alongside acceptance of all the new theological and sociological…um…developments. Even the venerable Society of the Holy Cross, while not accepting the changes, saw some of its members defect and form the coed Society of Catholic Priests. As more and more orthodox minded Anglo-Catholics left their churches for the Continuum, Rome, or Orthodoxy, many of the most hallowed Anglo-Catholic shrines began featuring such sights as priestesses offering solemn benediction, with cope and incense.
By the first decade of the 21st century, things were definitely coming to a head. While the “white” Anglican churches were pushing for all the afore-mentioned moral alterations, many of those in the “Global South” were digging in their heels to resist them. In the United States, more parishes left the Episcopal Church, and placed themselves under various African Anglican bishops. The Episcopal Church, headed by its Presiding Bishopess, ex-Catholic Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori, resorted to the courts to expel such congregations from their property; the ante upped when two dioceses seceded and an “alternative Anglican jurisdiction” — the Anglican Church in North America — was set up. Unlike the Continuum bodies, this one was accepted as authentic by a number of Anglican Bishops — albeit all in the Third World. The new group was even less united than the Continuum, however — some of its constituent bodies accept the Ordination of Women, others do not — and there are few if any Anglo-Catholics in it.
While all this was going on, however, another development was in the wind. In 2007, the Traditional Anglican Communion, under its then Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, petitioned to be admitted en masse into the Catholic Church. Hepworth had been a Catholic priest, left the Church, and been married twice; but it appeared that he was willing to sacrifice his own career for the sake of unity. Two years went by, fraught with negotiations between Hepworth and the Holy See. At last, in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated Anglicanorum Coetibus, an Apostolic Constitution establishing a method whereby Anglicans could be received into union with the Holy See as groups. This document foresaw the erection of “Personal Ordinariates” — similar to Military Ordinariates — which could encompass communities of Catholic Anglicans in one or more entire countries. The clergy and parishes within such an Ordinariate would not be subject to the local Catholic bishops, and the Ordinary would be a member of the Conference of Bishops of the country (or countries) to which his territory extended. Unlike the Pastoral Provision, converts make their entrance as groups, and erection of a local parish would not depend upon the local bishop. Married men could be ordained — but not as bishops — and an Ordinary could himself be a bishop or not.
When first issued, Anglicanorum Coetibus was received joyfully by the TAC and Archbishop Hepworth — although it took the Archbishop of Canterbury by surprise, and was not received joyfully by him or his prelates. The Anglican Bishop Chartres of London declared that communities taking advantage of the scheme would not be allowed to keep their church buildings — and this would prevail throughout the country. Again, time passed, without much appearing to happen, save that a number of constituent churches of the TAC applied to join the Ordinariates — which had not yet been formed. But in September 2010, Pope Benedict made a State Visit to Great Britain, during which he beatified Cardinal Newman.
Although there were some who wanted to keep the Papal visit a “private one” — as the visit of St. John Paul II had been in 1982, apparently the Queen had wanted it to be public. According to Benedict on the flight over, “I am very grateful to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who wanted to give this visit the rank of a state visit and who expressed the public nature of this visit and also the common responsibility of politics and religion for the future of continent, for the future of humanity: the large, shared responsibility so that the values that create justice and politics and which come from religion, share the journey in our time.”
In Edinburgh, his reply to the Queen’s welcoming speech made clear his thoughts concerning Great Britain and the Anglosphere: “Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world.”
Shortly after the visit, the first members of the future Ordinariate in Britain began entering the Church. On January 15, 2011, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, covering all of Great Britain, was formally erected. At its head was former “flying bishop,” Msgr. Keith Newton. Another year would pass before anything similar happened in the United States, over which time it became apparent that TAC clergy would not simply be automatically accepted. Those who had been Catholic priests (as some had, including Hepworth) could only enter as laymen; married bishops could not hope for anything higher than priestly ordination; and those with marital irregularities (unhappily, far from unheard of among the TAC clergy — to include, as we have seen, Archbishop Hepworth himself) would have to have them sorted out before they could hope for any kind of ordination. A number of the bishops who had signed on in 2007 decided against it. Moreover, the years of waiting took their toll on the laity — as did slights real or imagined on the part of members of the Catholic Church hierarchy. But at last, on January 1, 2012, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was launched (covering the United States and Canada), with Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande, at the helm. At last, on June 15, 2012, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, led by former TAC Bishop Msgr. Harry Entwistle and covering Australia and Japan started up. There have been no new ones since then — but there may be in the future in South Africa, India, or even in Northern Europe, where High Church Lutherans have gone through much of the same experiences as Anglo-Catholics.
These developments cannot be seen in isolation; rather they must be viewed in tandem with Pope Benedict’s liberation of the Tridentine Mass in Summorum Pontificum and the earlier mentioned change in the translation of the New Mass. Just as the former act was not merely intended to provide refuge for Traditionalists, but to enrich the whole Church, so too with Anglicanorum Coetibus: “Without excluding liturgical celebrations according to the Roman Rite, the Ordinariate has the faculty to celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours and other liturgical celebrations according to the liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, which have been approved by the Holy See, so as 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.”
The nature of the Liturgy approved for the Ordinariates gives a strong clue as to what that treasure is. The membership of the Ordinariates, while primarily made up of former Anglicans is — in that context — quite mixed. In England, many are former Anglo-Papalists, who were used to our Novus Ordo. In the United States, many are “Anglican Use” Catholics, who are used to a liturgy heavily drawn from the Episcopalian version of the Book of Common Prayer. Former mainstream Anglicans in Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia will be used to more or less modernised liturgies. Only TAC veterans shall have had much experience with the Anglican Missal. Yet is it primarily upon that and Tridentine sources — that is to say, upon the Anglo-Catholic liturgy at its prime — that the new liturgy is based. In addition to English and Scots local Saints, the Calendar revived such observances as the Rogation and Ember days, which Benedict had made clear should be revived in the General Roman Calendar at some future point. Moreover, the Sundays of the years are neither Ordinary Time nor after Pentecost, but after Trinity, in accordance with Anglican (and before that, Sarum) tradition.
Their liturgical excellence, alongside the liberation of the traditional litugy of the Latin Rite, is an important step indeed. The vast majority of Latin-Rite Catholics — in an eerily similar manner to the hapless Englishmen of the Reformation era, as Eamon Duffy, author of The Stripping of the Altars has observed repeatedly — have been in a few decades completely cut off not merely from their heritage, but from any sense of the Sacred at all. When Pope Benedict said and wrote things like “Most Catholics are liturgically illiterate,” or “when there is applause at church the true spirit of the Liturgy has fled,” he was not being complimentary. Nor was he exaggerating. Outside the relatively few Latin Mass communities and the fewer Novus Ordo parishes where the priest “says the black and does the red,” (and bearing in mind the resistance younger priests often get from elderly laity and clerics when they try to do just that — let alone introduce any Latin), we Latin Rite Catholics have forgotten what the Liturgy of the Church is intended to be. By their example, Ordinariate parishes can help the rank-and-file of younger Catholics to regain some of what has been taken from them.
That last reminds us also that the Anglo-Catholics preserved or rediscovered all sorts of Medieval English devotions. Dame Julian of Norwich, Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, and a host of other spiritual writers lost to or ignored by post Reformation English-speaking Catholicism are treasured among them. Needless to say they have kept up devotion to a large number of Anglo-Saxon saints whom we have forgotten. At least there have been for some years Catholic shrines at Walsingham, Willesden, and Glastonbury, in addition to the Anglican revivals in those places earlier noted.
These are wonderful gifts, but there are others. The document makes mention of “pastoral traditions.” Traditionally, Anglo-Catholic parishes have been close- knit affairs — unlike most city or suburban Catholic churches (wherein the vast majority of Catholics in the developed Anglosphere tend to live), and much more like rural, ethnic, and Eastern Rite parishes or Latin Mass communities. Indeed, they are reminiscent of Catholic parish life in Europe, where the priest more or less knows his people by name, and the parishioners share much more of their lives with each other than just Sunday Mass. This too, in addition to fine liturgy and deep devotion is something else they bring to the Church.
Yet another is their intellectual and artistic patrimony. All of the artists and writers we have looked at — and for that matter, the Caroline Divines and the Nonjurors — can be looked at again by Catholics, and in a far less adversarial manner. It is interesting to note that, Healey Willan’s grandchildren are all Catholics, and his legacy is safeguarded and promoted by a society under strictly Catholic auspices. Indeed, the arts were always a focus of Anglo-Catholic interest
But there is another gift they can bring us in this area. Just as English-speaking Catholics were not, as a rule, great ones for social thought, neither did we have much of an intellectual life — save what converts and foreign Catholics brought us. Once again, survival and acceptance trumped all else — in this case, love of learning and the life of the mind. After the Council, it got worse, as our larger American Catholic universities seemed to think that intellectual rigour meant surrender of the Faith and conformity to the worst aspects of secular academe. As for seminary education — well, even during the Council the irony was remarked upon of European prelates pushing for the vernacular at the Mass in flawless Latin, with their American confreres defending it haltingly (Cardinal Cushing left early because he could not follow the debates). Since then, here and abroad, we have “dumbed down” seminary education in most places tremendously. Not a scrap of Latin — in clear defiance of the wishes of St. John XXIII — and little of serious theology (I know one major seminary where nine of the professors have a degree in theology — all various sorts of social work; not a Roman doctorate in the mob. Some of this induced ignorance is ideological, to be sure; some is generational (think of the Synod on the Family that had to be conducted in Italian because of the attendees ignorance of Latin — or Benedict XVI’s resignation consistory where a large chunk of the Cardinals had no idea what was going on). But part of it is cultural. So another gift the Anglo-Catholics bring us is a love of learning. Perhaps few Anglican academics to-day could carry on a correspondence in Latin as C.S. Lewis did; but they do tend to prize a Classical education in a way that few of ours at Georgetown or Notre Dame would. Their love of history and literature is enormous — if you read the just the websites of the member organisations of the British Alliance of Literary Societies, you’d be literate automatically!
Another note is that the American branches of the Society of King Charles the Martyr and the Society of Mary are actively promoting outreach to the Ordinariate; one hopes that the American branches of the Guild of All Souls and the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament will follow suit, because, ultimately — pace the Affirming Catholicism crowd, the Church is the only place where there shall be room for traditional Anglo-Catholic devotions.
Indeed, the people of the Ordinariate are getting some wonderful things in return. Contrary to what the media say, people do not as a rule join the Ordinariates or “swim the Tiber” simply because they oppose the ordination of women or same-sex marriage. Rather, with every one of them whom I have spoken to, it is simply that those issues forced them to examine the nature of authority in the Church. They have generally decided that, at the end of the day, there is none in Anglicanism. Rather, there are simply competing opinions of which theirs was one — and one that has lost. But the Catholic Church offers authority — authority that on the one hand is unchanging and on the other hand human; a Pope whom Catholics consider infallible in certain cases, but not indefectible.
But there is something more they receive when they come into the Church. They bring with them those aspects of English religious heritage they have preserved. But they also become the heirs of the Recusants. They can look St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher (to say nothing of Bl. Cardinal Newman) right in the face, and make visits to Recusant homes like Mapledurham, Ingatestone Hall, Hendred House, Lulworth Castle, and Arundel Castle in England; Traquair House in Scotland, and Clonalis House in Ireland as family reunions. They can renew our devotion to St. George and St. Alban and St. William of York and St. Augustine of Canterbury, to be sure; but the shrines of Tyburn, Ladyewell, St. Edmund Arrowsmith, St. John Ogilvie, St. John Southworth, St. Margaret Clitherow, St. Oliver Plunkett, St. Cuthbert Mayne, St. David Lewis, the shrines of North Wales, and so many more become theirs too. In return for St. Augustine’s Prayerbook, they receive The Garden of the Soul. Well the Anglo-Catholics may do in bringing us their veneration of Charles I; we give them fellowship with his grandmother, sons, grandson, and great-grandsons — for whom so many of their fathers fought and suffered for in any case. It is a strange twist, but the principal church of the Ordinariate in England is Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, the former Bavarian Embassy Chapel. Because of its ties to the House of Wittelsbach, current senior heirs to the claims of the House of Stuart (Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is de jure King Francis II of England Scotland, and Ireland, though he does not press his claim), it is the church in which the Royal Stuart Society sponsors an annual Requiem Mass for the Catholic Stuarts. Why is all of this antiquarian interchange important? Because it brings up the third major reason for the Ordinariates: facilitating the Conversion of England, and, indeed, the Anglosphere.