Friday, 17 August 2012

A New Direction

There were a couple of surprises in the recent edition of New Directions, the magazine of Forward in Faith.  Many of the articles were interesting and good (the famous Davage writing style is always a treat to read), a hallmark of New Directions over many years, but there was some of the magazine that took me rather aback.

In the magazine, a prominent Anglo-Catholic was asked who his favourite historic figure was.  The reply: "Dr Pusey".  Anyone with an Anglo-Catholic background and/or a connection with Pusey House will be able to reflect thoughtfully on that, indeed I have prints of Dr Pusey and Blessed John Henry Newman side by side on my wall at home.  However, the reason for his choice was rather striking.  It was "Because he stayed in the Church of England".  I suppose we can take it that the interviewee is not a great devotee of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Has the mask of the modern Anglo-Catholic slipped?  Is there not even the slightest pretence any more of a shared goal of corporate reunion, something that seemed so important when Blessed John Paul II knelt beside Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, in Canterbury Cathedral?  Is the goal to remain in the Church of England, come what may, and if so, what on earth has all the fuss in General Synod been about, why not just sit quietly in a congregationalist bubble and let everyone else get on with what they wish to do?

Even Dr Pusey himself, in Eirenicon, a publication in which he outlined many of what he perceived to be faults and errors of the Catholic Church, was in fact arguing for a reunion of Catholic Christendom.  His old friend Blessed John Henry Newman, whom shortly before publication Pusey had met for the first time in 20 years, acknowledged as much in a letter to Pusey, in spite of Eirenicon's criticisms :
you discharge your olive branch as from a catapult.
Of course, I am being terribly unfair.  I should put my own Puseyite catapult away.  It was probably a rather tongue-in-cheek comment, in the context of a friendly and jovial discussion at which none of us was present.  We cannot assume that this means we should translate "Better Together" as meaning "Better Together away from the Catholic Church".  Still, I wonder if there is not some small kernel of truth in the analysis as it at first seems to be.   Dr Geoffrey Kirk, a former regular contributor to New Directions in his days as Secretary of Forward in Faith, and one of the newest members of the Ordinariate, put it rather more eloquently than I have, and perhaps rather more bluntly too, talking of Anglo-Catholic leaders who, notwithstanding all that is happening around them, carry on regardless, thereby allowing others to believe all is well :
This ignominious ending to a long and hard-fought campaign is properly a cause of grief and shame. Shame, because it is a betrayal of the entire Catholic movement – of Keble as well as Newman, of Pusey as well as Froude. Grief, because it has exposed a fault-line which, in our generous optimism, many of us supposed not to be there. When Benedict XVI called their bluff, men whose rallying cry had been ‘Look to the Rock from which we are hewn!’ looked the other way. When the life-boat was launched, they complained about its colour. They claimed to act out of affection for the Church of their baptism and ordination. Tragically that is a demonstration of loyalty which, in the course of time, the Church of England will discover that it can well do without.

It may simply be that there is, even among Anglo-Catholics, a residual, irrational, atavistic anti-Romanism which the passage of time has not been able to erode. But I think there is a deeper and more disturbing explanation for this sorry state of affairs.

A characteristic of modern Anglicanism, of all parties and opinions, has been creeping indifferentism. In increasing numbers people have concluded that doctrine does not matter – that it is merely ‘theological’, in the Harold Wilson sense of abstruse and irrelevant. How vividly I remember Dennis Nineham celebrating in the college chapel in a chasuble bought by Austin Farrer, behaving for all the world as though he believed in the Real Presence, when he did not even believe in the Incarnation. And I wondered what John Keble would have made of that.
The old argument was that the Church of England maintained the same historic teachings and traditions as the wider Church.  It was said that there were no differences, even if some work was necessary to make sure that all in the Church of England might come to share this understanding.  As Cardinal Kaspar suggested, since the latter half of the twentieth century, the Church of England has changed its approach from a period just after the second world war when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, could say
The Church of England has no doctrine of its own, save that of the one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.
to a time when Holy Order can be redefined with no reference to the Churches of the first millenium.

The Church of England is of course perfectly entitled to take this approach, and people are perfectly entitled to remain in the Church of England whatever its decisions might be.  Nobody argues the contrary.  There are those who say that the Church of England, as part of the Church Catholic (note the order of the words used), should not take such decisions alone, but the fact is that it does.  A leading proponent of the ordination of women to the Anglican episcopacy, Erika Baker, has said :
I still don't understand why those who are deliberately members of the CoE suddenly claim that it isn't the church ...... when they don't like its decisions. Yes, there are those who believe that the CoE doesn't have the power to make this decision.  But the CoE disagrees and it has made that decision and it has had women as priests for a long long time now.
She's right.  If you believe that the Church of England is the Church, and that it does not need to have its decisions approved by Rome or Constantinople, then it doesn't make sense to say that the Church of England isn't the Church on the occasions it reaches a conclusion other than one that matches your own opinion.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with those who are Anglicans wishing to remain Anglicans.  It is their choice, and we as former Anglicans who remained in the Church of England for many years are in no position to criticise that decision.  However, the pretence that nothing has changed (or that nothing is about to change) is wilful blindness.  The line that Dr Fisher took (and we all know that he was not exacly ablaze with Roman Fever) cannot now be uttered other than in wistful nostalgia.

What has happened (or is in the process of happening) is not Catholic at all.  It is not even what one might call Anglo-Catholic.  Part of the great argument for Anglo-Catholicism, for the branch theory, for the Church of England being part of the one universal Church, separated by mere accident of history (ie Tudor politics and Dr Cranmer's subservience), was that the absence of full unity with the wider Church of East and West, while something to be resolved one day in the future (preferably by someone else), did not diminish the Church of England’s self sufficiency. Each individual diocese was the Church in that area, and the resultant disparate nature of the wider entity was not perceived as a problem sufficient to alter the Church of England's historic role as the Catholic Church in this land, a Church that held on to the Catholic Faith as it always had done (even if that last part required considerable intellectual gymnastics to prove it to any degree).

In Tract 90, Blessed John Henry Newman, while still an Anglican (although Tract 90 became a turning point in his process of seeking reception into the Catholic Church), expressed it as follows
The Anglican view of the church has ever been this: that its portions need not otherwise have been united together for their essential completeness, than as being descended from one original. . . . Each church is independent of all the rest. . . . Each diocese is a perfect independent church, is sufficient for itself.

[the]….Bishop of Rome, the head of the Catholic world……. is not the centre of unity

[the Anglican church is]….. essentially complete without Rome
Newman, as we all know, came to realise the error of his ways and to see that this image of a fractured, broken, dismantled Church is not the one to which we should seek to aspire, and is the vision neither of the Gospel nor of the Fathers of the Church. By the time Newman wrote the Apologia, not only had he very much changed his views on the Bishop of Rome, but he also now attached the most tremendous importance to unity (he perhaps realised that to agonise about the accidence and essence of the status of the Petrine Ministry, as he had in Tract 90, was as a mote to the plank of ignoring the Gospel imperative of Unity) :
The Anglican disputant took his stand upon antiquity or apostolicity, the Roman upon catholicity. The Anglican said to the Roman: “There is but One Faith, the ancient, and you have not kept to it”; the Roman retorted: “There is but one Church, the Catholic, and you are out of it.”
How strange it now seems that nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholic arguments were that Rome innovated whereas Anglicanism held firm to the Faith.   Newman himself commented on this in May 1843:
At present I fear, as far as I can analyze my own convictions, I consider the Roman Catholic Communion to be the Church of the Apostles, and that what grace is among us (which, through God's mercy, is not little) is extraordinary, and from the overflowings of His dispensation. I am very far more sure that England is in schism, than that the Roman additions to the Primitive Creed may not be developments, arising out of a keen and vivid realizing of the Divine Depositum of Faith.
Well, General Synod no longer takes its stand upon antiquity or apostolicity.  Even Newman's Tract 90 arguments cannot now be used : Newman's Tract 90 views as an Anglican depended on a shared
possession of the Succession, their Episcopal form, their Apostolical faith, and the use of the Sacraments.
When that has gone, what is left may be wonderful, it may do huge amounts of good, it may be treasured and loved, it may be run by the most kindly and charitable of people, it may even, through the overflowings of His dispensation be filled with not little grace, but it pays no heed to Christ's prayer for Unity.  What's more, this isolationist strategy is adopted for the sake of "second order issues".

In a stunning sermon given during the celebrations held to mark the 125th Anniversary of Pusey House, Canon Robin Ward, the Principal of St Stephen's House, reminded us that Blessed Pius IX had told Dr Pusey that he was like a bell summoning people to church but never entering it himself; Dr Ward went on to wonder whether Anglo-Catholicism might not be able to hope for a better future than that, now that the Church of England with its two integrities was coming to an end. 

What Dr Pusey sought was a recovery of the Catholic nature of the Church of England.  It was the Catholicism of the Church of England that interested him, not primarily its Anglicanism.  If he had lived to see a day when the Church of England's Anglicanism led it to harm what he argued was its Catholic nature, one has to wonder if he really would have "stayed in the Church of England".

As a matter of fact of course, Dr Pusey did stay in the Church of England, but it is very bold to take a nineteenth-century decision made in a nineteenth-century context as being conclusive proof of what he might have thought today.  As we have argued before in an article on Dr Eric Mascall, it is impossible to conclude what the heroes of Anglo-Catholicism might have done had they found themselves facing the current situation. 

The other surprise for me in New Directions was an article by Dr Philip North.  In it, he talked of explaining to some evangelical Anglican clergy (who have taken over the running of a beautiful Anglo-Catholic parish church that has fallen on hard times) what his understanding was of the Mass, of Eucharistic theology, of the Real Presence.  He reported that some of the evangelical clergy had started to "say mass" and had been immensely moved by his no doubt utterly sound descriptions.  It reminded me of the diametrically opposed and mutually incompatible views that can be held in the Church of England, and I'm afraid it rather brought to mind the Nineham phenomenon to which Dr Kirk refers above.

I thought further on this on Sunday, during an excellent homily on the Real Presence, the Bread of Life, from Fr Colven at Mass in St James's.  During the homily, he recounted an anecdote he feared he might have told before (I don't recall it) about an elderly nun that he visits once a month. 

This nun was raised in the West Country, with no religious upbringing whatsoever.  At the age of 16, she and a friend decided that it would be the right thing to seek confirmation, so off they went to the Anglican Vicar.  This holy, kindly and erudite man taught them much.  Before one confirmation class, the future nun's friend urged her companion to ask if they would be required to believe in transubstantiation.  The nun-to-be, having no idea what this was, willingly asked the Vicar. 

This learned cleric proceeded to give her a clear and indeed utterly sound explanation of transubstantiation, of the Real Presence, of what happens during the Mass.  It was impressive and affecting.

He then said that as Anglicans they were entirely free to believe that or not.

His explanation had been so lucid and so powerful that the young woman was very moved by what she had learned.  However, it struck her that, quite simply, what she had been told was either true or it was not, and if it was true, it was a most tremendous truth and of the utmost importance.  She became a Catholic.

Some would perhaps argue that those discussions with the Evangelicals were about catholicising the Church of England, carrying on the work of the Oxford Movement.  If anyone were to argue that, then it would seem, to me at least, to display a rather extraordinary degree of optimism on their part.

Among the musical offerings at St James's on Sunday, we had Esquivel's beautiful Ego Sum Panis Vivus, which was often heard at Bourne St, as well as Tallis O Nata Lux, a fine piece of English Catholic music (we cannot claim it as Anglican patrimony). 

The setting of the ordinary of the Mass was new to me, being the Missa Fac Bonum by the German baroque composer Valentin Rathgeber (the Agnus Dei of which reminded me very much of the theme music from the television series of Brideshead Revisited).  The Gloria of the mass setting is shown below, accompanied by some very improving images. 

As the post-Mass hymn we had a true favourite of the Marylebone Ordinariate Group, O Bread of Heaven, eminently suitable to accompany the readings at Mass and Fr Colven's homily.  Although this hymn has featured many times on this blog before, including in our article Catholic Treasure, Anglican Patrimony, we make no apology for its reappearance, because we share the view of that elderly nun that what St Alphonsus Liguori's hymn speaks of is indeed a most tremendous truth. 

The Sacrament of Unity indeed.  O may we all one bread, one body be.  Let us hope, as Dr Ward dared to do, for a better future for the vision of Dr Pusey and of the Oxford Movement than one limited by a test of whether its inheritors can hold fast to the Church of England, come what may. 

Even Wilfred Knox, a prominent Anglo-Catholic in the early twentieth century, and who unlike his more famous brother Monsignor Ronald Knox did not become a Catholic, included a sentence in the preface to his book The Catholic Movement in the Church of England that seems far from a goal of holding fast, come what may :
It is possible that I shall be accused of a lack of loyalty to the distinctive position of the Church of England. But if in being loyal to the teaching of the Church Catholic I am disloyal to the Church of England, I fear that I shall bear the reproach with equanimity.
We leave the final word to the famous Fr Davage, whom we mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Here is his conclusion from a lecture he gave in Bristol in 2009, entitled "Edward Bouverie Pusey : Post Reformation Saint?" :
........we are invited in this series to consider Dr Pusey as a Post-Reformation Saint. John Henry Newman is poised for beatification and possibly canonisation. Even if we forget about the process and the miracles for a moment, there is something right about that because Newman spent half his life as an Anglican and half as a Roman Catholic. He represents one vital strain of Anglo-Catholicism. Keble and Pusey represent another strain, and [in] the recent papal offer of an Ordinariate that respects and values an Anglican, and more specifically, an Anglo-Catholic patrimony, they would be candidates for admission to the saintly band and could share with Newman a patronage and saintly oversight, joined in heaven as they were in the life of the Oxford Movement. Until that day dawns, perhaps our last image should be of those three profoundly great and holy men dining alone in Hursley Vicarage on the one occasion that they met after Newman’s conversion: Keble at seventy-three, Pusey at sixty-five, Newman at sixty-four, not quite all passion spent. Three elderly clerical gentlemen who had met at Oxford, "the fulcrum from which [they] … hoped to move the Church," together after twenty years. Keble had only one more year to live, Pusey seventeen, Newman twenty-five. The shadows are lengthening, the candles are guttering, the tempest and turmoil of the battle has stilled for a moment as they talk and reminisce quietly and easily. We can only hear the murmuring of voices as we back silently out of the room and quietly close the door: ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (out of the shadows and images into truth).

O Bread of Heaven, beneath this veil
Thou dost my very God conceal:
My Jesus, dearest treasure, hail!
I love Thee and, adoring, kneel;
Each loving soul by Thee is fed
With Thine own Self in form of Bread.

O food of life, Thou Who dost give
The pledge of immortality;
I live, no 'tis not I that live;
God gives me life, God lives in me:
He feeds my soul, He guides my ways,
And every grief with joy repays.

O Bond of love that dost unite
The servant to his living Lord;
Could I dare live and not requite
Such love - then death were meet reward:
I cannot live unless to prove
Some love for such unmeasured love.

Beloved Lord, in Heaven above
There, Jesus, Thou awaitest me,
To gaze on Thee with endless love;
Yes, thus I hope, thus shall it be:
For how can He deny me Heaven,
Who here on earth Himself hath given?

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if you should write to New Directions with your observations. I suspect most of its readers would not have the benefit of your blog. The days of a "Code of Practice will not do" have given way to "we are staying whatever" - see the blog site of St Peters London Dock for the latest thinking. As for the "Better Together" campaign it looks as though WATCH and the Affirming Catholics have got a lot of new recruits. What's happened to Hilda and Wilfred?