I have written yesterday about the drama of Anglicanism, where more and more people are discovering that they belong to the wrong shop without being able to draw the uneasy, but necessary consequences.
Today I’d like to point your attention to an article from the Anglican “Church Times” giving some insights of what is happening within the Anglican Communion and how most Anglicans will react.
Last weekend, a South East Asian representative of the Anglican Communion put to the vote the proposal to….. kick their American province out. It does make sense: once acknowledged that their theology has become so fundamentally different in a lot of key areas, it is plainly absurd to continue to pretend the existence of a unity which is not there anymore.
As a Catholic, one understands them all too well. To be united in one religious community means to believe the same things, failing which we have different communities. The Arians, the Nestorians, the Pelagians etc. have been declared not to be part of the Church because…. they didn’t believe what the Church believed.
Anglicanism seems to work differently, at least in its (as the Church Times says) “overwhelming majority”. No theological difference is so big that it would justify a separation. Rather, compromises are sought (and invariably found). For an Anglican, a separation would (and I quote again) “inhibit dialogue” and be therefore “unhelpful”.
As a result, the Anglican Communion will continue to have in its midst people who believe everything and its contrary; in transubstantiation, in consubstantiation, or in none of the two; who are in favour of bishopesses and priestesses, in favour of priestesses but against bishopesses, or against both; who consider themselves Catholics of the One Catholic Church (funny, this), Catholics of a separated church (funny that, too) or (correctly) Protestants; who believe in apostolic succession, or select their bishops through a democratic process; who consider homosexuality a perversion, or fine until one doesn’t commit sodomy, or jolly good and perfectly in order whatever one does; who want their bishops straight, or homosexual provided they are celibate, or homosexuals and living with their lover provided there is no sex (it gets funnier and funnier), or homosexual with a lover and full-blown sodomy and this is absolutely spiffing.
This is modern Anglicanism. Its only commandment is “Thou Shalt Not Split”. No difference is so big that it should “inhibit dialogue”, even when the differences are clearly insurmountable. Some of them will one day, unavoidably, recognise that this has become a parody of a Communion (and Anglicanism in vast parts a parody of Christianity) and will leave; but they’ll be a minority, no doubt considered “intolerant” and “judgmental” from the rest.
Imagine now Christianity of the first centuries. Imagine the Church saying to the Arians that there are differences, but they will be dealt with in a spirit of dialogue; telling the Nestorians that to declare them heretics would be “unhelpful”; telling the Pelagians that they will not be excluded from communion because the work of the Church “would be diminished if it lacked a range of opinions”.
“Ahh – I hear you saying – but the Church would never do that because the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and these ecclesial communities aren’t; which is why they change theology, split continuously or remain together with different creeds and end up believing in inclusiveness and niceness as only guiding values”. And you are right, very right.
It remains a mystery to me how Anglicans can see the scale of the mess and still believe that the Holy Ghost is in any way, shape or form behind the Anglican Communion; how they can see the transformation of their communion into something completely different, nay, into many things completely different from each other and still pretend that it is the same thing as, say, only 100 years ago; how they can see the Holy Spirit inspiring one generation to believe the exact contrary of what former generations have been inspired to believe.
When we Catholics complain (as we should) that the one or other priest is heterodox, the one or other bishop socialist or the one or other cardinal outright devilish we should still reflect that no Pope or Council has ever said that divorce, abortion, sodomy, priestesses, bishopesses, consubstantiation & Co., & Co. are, henceforward, to be considered just fine. We should consider this and say: Thank God I’m Catholic.
Anglicanorum Coetibus is in the meantime more than eight months old. I would have expected that this historical step toward the Anglican cultural tradition would have been welcomed with a great sigh of relief from many near converts, now free from shallow liturgy and liberal Bishops. Anglicanorum Coetibus also made clear that the door is open in liturgical, but not in doctrinal matters; in other words, that the Catholic Sunday Roast must be eaten with all the trimmings.
Eight months later, I do not feel encouraged. What I notice is as follows:
1) Inability to decide. I know that Anglicans have this down to a fine art, but conversion is a matter of absolutes, not of nuances and subtle distinguos. You either believe that there is Only One Church and the Anglicans are not part of it because the Only Church says so, or you don’t. In the first case there is no alternative to conversion; in the second, no need.
2) Inability of the laity to understand what conversion entails. Conversion means to believe everything which the Church believes, and to profess everything which the Church professes. This means to accept that they were wrong; that their ancestors were wrong; that they themselves were heretics who have now decided to come back to the Only Church. This seems to be a huge obstacle for many of them who seem to think that they can get in as Anglicans. They can’t. If you’re Catholic, Anglicans are heretics to you, full stop.
3) Inability of the clergy to do the same. For the clergy this implies in particular the obvious recognition that their supposed orders are and ever have been null and void. You can’t become Catholic without accepting Apostolicae Curae and the clergy are called to accept this clearly and to explain it (with due delicacy, but telling the whole truth) to their sheep.
4) Strong propensity to use Anglicanorum Coetibus as a negotiating tool with the hierarchy of the so-called church of England (which doesn’t listen to them anyway).
There will be, of course, laudable exceptions. At least, I hope so. But if you look around on the blogosphere what you’ll notice is the repeated complaint that the Anglican Synod is not helping them to stay, that compromises proposed by them have not been accepted, and the like.
Please, let us not kid ourselves. This is the language of one who is not preparing to go, but trying to stay.
I cannot avoid wondering: what would I do if I were an Anglican vicar persuaded that conversion is the way? I would prepare my sheep to the event. I would explain to them everything which such a conversion entails, including the difficult bits. I would tell them that in the end wrong is wrong, and right is right and that the truth will set them free. Most importantly, I would tell them that if conversion is right, the synod’s decisions are irrelevant.
In the several news from them I have read since October – the last one from Fr. Longenecker – I have never found one willing to explain these simple concepts. Not one. Whilst some people have certainly understood the implications, their way was rather the individual conversion. Conversely, my experience is that where the conversion of entire parishes/communities is concerned, the implications of the conversion are simply ignored and the conversion presented as the unavoidable alternative to the Synod not doing what they want.
Dissatisfaction with the Anglican hierarchy can’t even begin to be a reason for conversion. To say so is to threaten the synod to become Catholics whilst thinking, speaking and acting like Anglicans.
Still, the blogosphere is vast. I might be wrong on this.
Please inform me of any Anglican blog pointing out to the ugly truths of 2) and 3) above and making clear that conversion cannot depend on a synod’s decision. It would be so beautiful to see that Anglicanorum Coetibus does pave the way for sincere conversions rather than for Anglican poker games.